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Basic, Benning & Me at Thirty Three

posted Jan 12, 2012, 2:38 PM by Brandon McGuire   [ updated Jan 12, 2012, 2:42 PM ]
Side Note: This was the first journal I read when starting to research more about basic training. The entire journal is below and I was glued to it from start to finish. This is what gave me the idea to create my own journal

-Brandon




By Brian Weston


INTRODUCTION:

On January 23, 2003, I decided to join the US ARMY at age 33. I chose 91W

or medic as my MOS. My reason for joining was simple: I long felt a desire to serve my country and to do my part, but I was generally a big chicken up to that point, so I never joined. On this particular day, I was less chicken I guess.

I didn't care about the bonuses or the pay, the glory or the college; I already had a thriving photography business and a degree from Florida State. I was excited about serving, training, learning a new trade and all the military benefits for my wife and myself. My wife supported my decision all the way. So I signed up and entered the Delayed Entry Program (DEP). The recruiter was up front and honest with me, dare I say even cool. My ship date was July 31, 2003 and I would enjoy the thrills of Basic Combat Training at the illustrious Fort Benning. Afterwards, I would attend AIT at Fort Sam Houston. Finally I would end

up at my guaranteed station of choice: Fort Carson, CO. It seemed like such simple plan. Little did I know what was to come and what was awaiting my 33 year old body.


The following pages are the journal entries I mailed home to my wife. Originally she posted them online whenever she received a letter. That way, family could follow along in relative real-time. These are the real entries wrote them, bad grammar and all. Each entry reflects my mood and how I was feeling at the moment I wrote it, good, bad or ugly. I held back nothing and I sugar coated nothing. Realize I had good and bad days. As you will read, injuries exaggerated my frustrations as well. Enjoy and learn. ~Brian


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PART I - MY PERSONAL JOURNEY


Sunday, June 22, 2003 

PRE-BASIC: 39 days to go


We went out and started buying the bare minimum supplies to get started: brown towel, those horrible tidy-whiteys, travel toothpaste, toothbrush and the like. Lisa also addressed and stamped like 40 envelopes to herself for later. We have a plan: I will write multiple letters for various people, stick them in one envelope to her and she will mail them to the respective parties. Hopefully this will save me time later on. We shall see. Also, Lisa will take over the duties of posting on this site while I am gone. I will mail her the journal information, she will post it here. This way it's constantly up to date, so keep checking back! It's going to get interesting.


PRE-BASIC: 23 days to go


So we decided to sell 95% of everything we own. We figure why not! When we get to Colorado Springs, we'll have some fun at Target refitting our new house. A doctor who just moved in upstairs from us bought almost all of our furniture. We also had a $1.00 sale for everything that was left (clothes, dishes, pictures, pots and stuff like that). A couple of women came over and cleaned us out! The TV and bed are going in about 2 weeks to a friend. That will leave us with clothing and our computers. Next year, Target and IKEA will make a fortune off of us!


PRE-BASIC: 20 days to go

Yesterday, the recruiting station took us all to Ft. Lee to watch the Airborne, Riggers and HALO guys jump from the UH-60 (Blackhawk Helicopter). Its way too cool when you see it live! The Airborne and Riggers jumped using static-line chutes from a height of 1500ft. The chutes open as soon as the soldier jumps out. The HALO guys (High Altitude/Low Opening) freefell from 8500ft before deploying their chutes! HALO guys can jump from as high as 30,000ft with oxygen. The whole thing was a site to see! Airborne was not an open option when I signed up, but when I get to Colorado I am going to put in for Airborne school. Why not! Barring a few broken bones...it looks fun


PRE-BASIC: 5 days to go. 

Wow it's getting close! I was initially concerned about my ability to run, but I am doing 2 miles pretty consistently now. I am by no means an Olympic runner, but it's good enough to get started with. The apartment is all but packed up. We are sleeping on an Aero bed since we sold our mattress. This Monday I have my 72 hour check-in with the recruiter. I believe this is to make sure I haven't spazzed out and ran to Canada or some business, eh? Also, I watched Full Metal Jacket last night which could have been a tactical error on my part; I need to make myself any more nervous? A quote I remember when I am feeling anxious about this whole experience is "the tree of liberty must be replenished from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." - Thomas Jefferson


Wednesday, July 30, 2003 

Well, Brian left today. He had to stay tonight at a hotel (which is about a minute down the road from our apartment). Apparently, they all must stay at this hotel and leave together tomorrow morning for MEPS. The bus leaves at 5:10am "with or without you". He will probably spend the day at MEPS and then it's off to the airport and on to Fort Benning. Hopefully I will hear from him soon and update this often!


Saturday, August 02, 2003 

Brian left for Fort Benning on Thursday July 31 at 5:00am. He called me from the Richmond airport and told me he had met 3 other guys on their way to Fort Benning as well. Their ages were 38, 37, and 33 which made Brian feel a lot better. Plus two of the guys were leaving their wives and children. Even though they were all headed to the same place, they all traveled separately. Brian was hoping to meet up with them again at Fort Benning. Brian had to fly from Richmond to Charlotte then to Atlanta. He had a 6 hour lay over in Charlotte because his original flight was canceled. He was set to arrive in Atlanta around 10:00pm and at Fort Benning around midnight. His flight to Atlanta was delayed and he did not arrive there until midnight! By then, the military desk at the airport was already closed and the bus had already left for Fort Benning. He was pretty much alone and stuck. He called the 800# given to him at MEPS to be called if there was a problem or emergency. They decided to put him up in a hotel for the night (whatever was left of it). Well, there was a biker convention in Atlanta and there were no rooms available. They had to put a rollaway bed in a room with two other guys who were on their way to Fort Knox. It was about 2:00am before Brian finally got to sleep and he had to be back at the airport military desk by 9:00am. He managed to call me Friday morning to update me on things and that's the last time I spoke with him. Hopefully he will be allowed to call soon!


Day 3 - Date not recorded 

So, after a 2 hour drive to Ft. Benning, I arrived with my throat sore and feeling sick. I walk in to this reception hall and there are hundreds of soldiers running around, sitting lined up on benches and such. I am the only moron in civilian clothes. They tell me to sit on this bench with my back to all the other soldiers and wait. After about 10 minutes, a private tells me to follow him to go eat. I get to the dining place and they tell me to wait outside. So again I stand and wait, feeling like an idiot amongst hundreds of soldiers waiting to eat. After another 15 minutes or so, some sergeant waves me in. I grab some food, sit down and eat. Once I finished, I realized oh shit what do I do after I eat? I couldn’t see the private who brought be here anyplace. I took up my tray and tapped this guy - he turns around and it's a major! I told him I am lost, just off the bus and all. Then a captain waves me over and starts to yell at me for talking, talking to an officer, being lost and a myriad of other things. THEN a woman comes over and asks me what the problem is. I explained and she tells me to just go back to the processing center. I later find out from the private who took me to eat and lost me, that she was the Lt. Col. - the big boss. He said I was lucky I just got off the bus or I would be in a world of hurt. Great start. After sitting alone for 2 or more hours, a bunch of other new guys finally sat next to me. Another half hour passes and they walk us to a barrack and plop us in a little laundry room. Then we are swarmed by 30 guys begging for candy, cigs, and magazines, everything we had. They were like vultures! It was a riot. Now we spend 3 MORE hours sitting in this room listening to horror stories. Who do you believe? Which stories are real? This is very confusing and already I can see why reception will be hell! P.S. Let my just say it's true what you ask yourself “why the hell did I do this??”


Day 4 - Date not recorded 

I don't even know where to begin to explain this nightmare! We spent about 4 hours sitting on wood benches FREEZING our asses off. Finally around 10pm they did a shakedown. They went through our bags and got rid of candy, cigs, weapons, etc. It was our first taste of a drill sergeant. He was ok. Around 11pm they took us to the barracks where we got our bunks and shaved. I tried to sleep, but between the a/c blowing on me, new troops coming in throughout the night, flashing lights from the night guards (every 10 minutes), snoring, talking, etc. - I got little sleep. We had to be up at 4am, make our bunks and be down for morning formation by 4:45am. There are like 50 of us with 6 toilets and 6 sinks. Fun. Most guys are cool overall - some are immature though. So we get down to formation (400 guys) at 4:45am. Then a Drill Sergeant named "Shenks" came out SCREAMING! Apparently, we got up too early. So Shenks sends us back to bed. Formation was at 5:30am! No one went back to sleep. So at 5:30 all 400 guys showed up...again. Drill Sergeant Shenks went ballistic on a group of guys who forgot to shave. They were smoked. This guy Shenks is a scary dude. The other Drill Sergeants are ok. But these Drills are apparently the pussy cats compared to the ones at Basic. I dread it. I do not like this - tired, headache, gotta pee every 3 minutes! We are required to drink 8 canteens of water per day and pee clear - no yellow. We got our PT uniforms today. We also got towels, duffel bag, and other gear. I get a haircut, shots, and BDU's Monday. I am hoping to get a phone call tonight to you. What I wouldn't give to come home. The other Drill Sergeants were telling us more about BCT and that will be scary! The PT test is in a few days so keep your fingers crossed. We are just sitting in the barracks and are NOT ALLOWED to sleep. But since everyone is so tired, people fall asleep and some joker will scream at them like a Drill Sergeant and scare the crap out of them - it's mean but funny.


August 03, 2003: Day Who Knows - Who Cares 

We have a lot of down time in reception. The Drill Sergeants inspect our barracks randomly. We do pretty well for a bunch of losers. Basic is going to be REALLY tough. I am nervous and I think most people are. I almost got smoked by DS Shenks during inspection - my foot locker was out. I was lucky he didn't notice. We have one guy who is a basket case. Everyone is trying to help him but to no avail. I feel bad for him. "FUCK" is the most common word. Drill Sergeants use it every other word - "What's your fucking problem private? Get the fuck out of here." And so on. DS Shenks was actually in a good mood today and that was great. They are trying to make us fat and bored here. Its part of the game I guess. I actually slept good last night and some little things are becoming second nature - chow, formation, canteens, etc. Also, it's weird but you start automatically responding to commands - albeit small ones. I think this is a good precursor to BCT. I feel more motivated today. We had a class from DS Long. He is very cool and motivating! He threatens us a lot, so we don't mess up and he lets us sleep early or lay down, etc. Tonight I have guard duty from 9-10pm. I took first shift since we wake up at 3:30am tomorrow. Basically we spend the hour guarding doors and counting people. People are starting to get nicknames like "Flying Hawaiian," "Milkshake," "Bounce", etc. They just called me "Pop." These are a good bunch. There are 6 other medics, so we will go all the way through together. That is good. Oh, shots are Monday - ick! Also everyone is constipated! It sucks but it is funny.


August 04, 2003: Shot Day - Ouch! 

Well today was an interesting day. First, our A/C is out so it's about 100 degrees in here. Everyone is sweaty and nothing dries. We went to the PX to get our supplies. It was fun but you have like 25 seconds to grab everything. We also did our entire medical exam; eyes and dental. It was also shot day. Nine shots, a blood draw and a very painful shot in the butt (which is still sore). Everyone is limping. I am trying to write after lights out since I had no other time to write. We may ship to BCT Friday. Things are actually going well so don't worry. I don't know when I can call either. Oh! We just had a fire drill - NOT FUN. I pulled fire guard last night and it wasn't too bad. The food is good but you have to eat in 5 minutes, not talk and not look up. The guys are pretty rowdy tonight for some reason. Oh! We have 5 Hawaiians here. They are really cool. People want to get going to BCT. I am a bit nervous but the sooner we get there, the sooner I get home! It's weird but you start to adapt little by little. You move, eat, clean, stand, whatever when they say to and its okay. No phones are tough. AIT will be great since I can call more often. Ok, I am going to sleep. Formation is at 4:00am.


August 05, 2003 

Today we got our BDU's, boots, name tags, etc. Seems like about 100 lbs worth of stuff. We have to carry it all in our duffels which sucks. I have to learn to polish my boots still. They tell us Thursday is "the day" that we ship downrange. That means we will take the dreaded PT test that morning. A guy here is also a 91W (medic) and a runner. He says he will help pace me during the PT test run. We will go to AIT together and he is from Colorado Springs, cool huh! Everyone is acting like a nut tonight. I think people are antsy. We are still sore from all the shots. Ok, here is a rundown of our average day:

3:30am: wake up 4:15am: formation 

5:00am: breakfast 

6:30am-12 noon: processing 

Noon-1:00pm: lunch 

1:00pm-4:00pm: processing 

4:00pm-6:30pm: letters, laundry, relaxing 

6:30pm-7:00pm: dinner

7:00pm-8:00pm: more letters, laundry, etc 

8:00pm: formation 

8:30pm-9:00pm: showers 

9:00pm: lights out

So that's how it goes. LOTS of standing in line. You can't talk or move but everyone does from boredom and stiffness. We get yelled at about 10 times a day. They threaten a lot of stuff but haven't followed through yet. They call us things like: losers, faggots, fuckers, etc. It's amazing how small they can make you feel. They belittle you and make you feel like a moron. They are very good at it. We laugh later but at that moment, it sucks. It's about 8:45pm and I am showered, shaved and relaxing. We have our PT test Thursday morning for sure so it's looking like Friday is the day! I am now ready for what lies ahead. We have all adjusted to this pretty well. Stomach problems are better, sore throat is gone and the shakes are gone...yea! I have fireguard tonight from 10-11 so I am signing off to get 1 hour sleep in before they wake me.


Wednesday, August 06, 2003 

Well, I am getting sick again, probably from rain, the flu shot, the A/C, etc. I have the PT test tomorrow and now I am worried. If I pass, you will get this and I will already be at BCT with the guys. If I fail, I stay in the horrible fat camp and could ship weeks later. Hope for the first option. Ok, here are some of the guys’ nicknames:

"Big Hawaii" - From Oahu, big guy but very cool 

"Milkdud" - The retarded guy everyone hates 

"Skofield" - An 18 year old who curses all day 

"Mumbles" - A dude who bit his tongue day one and mumbles 

"Blistex" - The guy who will be in TX and CO with me

I am cutting this short because I want to mail this. It may be one or more weeks before I can call. I know it's horrible but it will be over in 9 weeks. I have no leave before AIT, but 10 days leave before we go to Ft. Carson! I will have an address soon too.


Thursday, August 07, 2003: the day I ship downrange to Basic

I hope I can do this. 

I hope I won't throw up. 

I hope I pass the PT test. 

I hope there are bathrooms 

I hope I don't get a cold. 

I hope I can get some sleep. 

I hope I don't go weeks without talking to you

I hope I made the right choice. 

I hope I don't get hurt.

I hope I am a better person for all this

I hope.


Friday, August 08, 2003 

Well, it's August 8th at 3pm. I am sneaking again to write. They don't give us much so you have to sneak. My bunkmate's name is Wentworth. His first name is Brien and he says hey. He has a wife and two kids. He is 25 and pretty cool. We had a GI party today where we scrub all the barracks with steel wool. It's a nice break from PT. I just found out that my company - "A" at Fort Benning is an infantry regiment and therefore the most difficult BCT (not OSUT). Lucky me.


It's 8:15pm. We just shined boots, so if you see black smudges on the paper its polish. I tried to call you tonight! No one was home. I left a message but I was very upset you weren't there. It could be 1-2 weeks before I get another one minute phone call. PLEASE WRITE! I need to get letters from you. We hear that some guys' wives/girlfriends break up with them here. That is so horrible! They are very depressed and cannot leave or quit. I wish I could talk to you. I miss you a ton! BCT is very hard physically and mentally. I hope I make it. Right now I am very sore and tired. I eat well but even that is stressful because you must drink a full glass of water AND a full glass of Powerade with every meal. It's hard for me to do. And they check! If you look around they throw you out. If you eat too slowly they throw you out, etc. Tomorrow will be a hard running day - not looking forward to it. I like the ARMY but I really don't like being at Fort Benning. I can't wait until I see you at graduation. Thinking of you gets me through the really hard stuff. They haven't broken me though - I keep pushing! 49 days to go until freedom! I think I just move too slowly, physically, for all of this. Ah, to be 18 again. I'd love a shower where I actually feel clean! The ARMY doesn't give you enough clothing. It's always dirty and 57 guys have 3 washers to use on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday to wash. We will never get it done but yet we are required to. It makes no sense.


August 09, 2003: Day 3 

So let me first say I miss you! You can't imagine. Let me fill you in on the hell of BCT! Its day #3 of BCT and it's horrible! They tell you what to do, what to wear, what to eat, when to shave, when to shower, how to walk, what to say, when to say it, etc. Weeks 1-3 you are under TOTAL CONTROL. You can do nothing without permission. We have to sneak to do things. I am writing this at night for example. The first hours when you get off the bus are truly indescribable and the most insane thing you can imagine! They attack you the second you get off the bus like pit bulls. They grabbed us and threw our bags all over the place. Then they dropped us like crazy. Then, with all of our gear, we lined up and held our bags over our heads for a very, very, very long time. They ran around screaming at us and one Drill Sergeant had a bullhorn. Then they divided us by last name, we grabbed our bags and ran up 3 flights of stairs. When we got to our barracks, they smoked all of us for an hour. And that is how we met our 3 Drill Sergeants: DS Ahdunko (the "kinder" teacher-type), DS Williams (the mean, evil one) and DS Hunter (the PT freak who "doesn't care about us"). After a smoking that made us sweat so much that the floor was soaked, we dumped and inventoried everything. The first day was really bad! The schedule seems to be eat, form up, get smoked, go to a boring class, get smoked, eat, class again, get smoked, eat, bed. We are all beat up. My fingers are swollen, I can hardly walk, my back hurts, plus I have bronchitis. Others are missing skin, have bruised backs, blisters, pulled muscles, etc. It's really NOT fun. I will be glad when total control ends. You have literally 30 seconds to shower or you get smoked. You have 1 minute to do the impossible or you get smoked. They all seem to hate and barely even look at us. But, you can see the game at work. For example hallways and walkthroughs all look the same so you get lost. There are places where DS's will just appear from to see if you react properly. You cannot go anyplace alone. The classrooms are painted and lit so as to make you sleepy. Sleeping in class = BAD. The smokings are a 1-2 hour punishment for 1 person's screw up. Like someone's BDU's were not buttoned or something like that. Everything is designed so you fail. So they work you out with these crazy exercises until you drop - then they keep going. If you quit, they keep going. It's a really terrible. All they do is dog, insult and belittle you. You never do anything right. They have no sympathy if you are sick, injured, or whatever. They despise people who go on sick call - even if you really messed something up! They make sure to tell you every second that you will fail. Mostly I just miss you. I think about you often and wonder what you are up to. Don't expect many phone calls for a number of weeks. I just don't know. PLEASE write and have others write too. I really need it! Please make sure to write the address EXACTLY as I gave it to you and make sure you write "Death Dealers" on the lower left hand side of the envelope or ...drum roll... I will get smoked.


August 11, 2003 

We have PT this morning and I don't think it will be fun at all. I managed to wash one PT uniform and one set of BDU's. T-shirts and socks are still wet and dirty. It won't be until Tuesday before I can attempt laundry again. Ugh. I should have brought more white socks. You may be able to mail me some, I will let you know. Wentworth got to speak with his family last night for one minute. He is as happy as I am sad I missed you. You will be impressed as I can now make a bunk and ARMY roll socks, T-shirts, and underwear. Also, we are beginning to follow commands quicker. People still move at attention and we get smoked a lot. Hopefully we will march soon. It looks fun! Oh! And I got my Kevlar helmet and rucksack. At least I look like a soldier LOL. Okay, I have formation at 4:45am (in 10 minutes). Better go.


Well, today was actually a cool day - sort of. First we did PT. I fell out of the run and got smoked in the sand pit. It sucked! Then we put on BDU's and went for a 1.5 mile march. Then we did the Team Development Course where each group tries to solve physical problems in a time limit. Then after like 5 hours, we marched 1.5 miles back. Then I and 9 others were put on HQ duty to pick up trash, wax floors, etc. The good thing was we missed the evening smoking. Yeah! DS Ahdunko supervised and was actually a bit civil. Injury update: I am still coughing. My left middle finger is badly bruised and swollen. My palms are bruised. My left knee is bruised. I have 2 pulled calves and 1 pulled hamstring. I have 2 blisters on my right foot and both my big toes are numb. My right hipbone is bruised as well. Fun huh! I am also really tired. I passed 2 required tests too! Saluting correctly and guard duty. It's just the running that is killing me. OK it's late and I don't want to get busted.


August 13, 2003 

Well it's 4am. I have flag duty where we go and raise the flag. I hope it gets me out of PT. I am just physically wiped! I heard we are doing obstacle course today. Ugh. I want to try it but I am sore and tired. One guy is going to sick call because of blisters. I am extra tired because our fire guard fell asleep and the DS caught him. We had to go downstairs to formation at 1am. Then I coughed most of the night. I guess 1/2 of the 57 of us are sick.


Well today was both a fun and not so fun day. I missed PT because we had to do flag raising duty so that was good! We did the obstacle course and that was a riot. We got covered in mud and sand. It was fun. Later we got in a lot of trouble for being noisy in formation. I was in charge of organizing all 57 guys to get laundry done on a rotating shift. No one could get it together so I grabbed the first few guys who were ready and now I am in the laundry room. It's Wednesday, our laundry day, and the laundry didn't get done. The guys are too selfish!


We went on a short road march to the confidence course. We climbed towers, ropes, obstacles, etc. It was cool! It poured rain on us, so we double-timed it back. That's like a jog in BDU's and combat boots but we were soaking wet. It sucked! This morning at PT I fell out of the 2 mile run. They beat the shit out of the group that fell out. For 2 hours they punished and smoked us in mud, sand, and rocks. I am extremely tired and sore and it was the first time I really wanted to quit this thing. But I am better now. Okay, well we have our first full gear march at 4am so I am out. Please write!


August 14, 2003 

I am upset that I didn't get a letter today. I really need to hear from you! Today I feel really miserable. I am really sick and I have to go to sick call tomorrow so I am going to miss the rappel wall. Today is a very gloomy day for me. I am sick, sick of these people, sick of this routine, sick of the DS's and I just miss you. The DS's have been pretty cool actually. Smokings have been rarer. We got issued our M16A2 Rifles today. We spent most of the day in class learning how to assemble and clean it. We did a 2 mile road march, in gear at 4am. It was cool. I almost felt like a real soldier. We have a 10 mile march in about 6 weeks. The lack of mail and phone calls to you are killing me! But I am learning how to polish my boots. Also, I look pretty cool in my ARMY gear. I ordered some photos for you. They should be in within a few weeks. I just heard about the big power outage up north. Write me and tell me what happened! Please give my address to everyone as well.


August 15, 2003 

It's about 5:30am and I decided to go on sick call. I am totally fatigued. I will be going to the TMC (clinic) and I hope they send me to the infirmary so I can sleep.


Well I have been sitting in the TMC for about an hour now. My temp was 99.5 but I am dizzy. The TMC is like a walk-in clinic where the Sergeants still yell. It must be something they teach! If I go to the infirmary I will miss the rappel wall which sucks. I wish I could just come home. I am still having running troubles and that could hold me back. We shall see. Physically I feel okay. No foot, knee, neck or back problems. That's good. I thought for sure my neck would be killing me. I weighed myself today and I gained 8 pounds! All muscle (and water probably). I told you they make us drink 6-10 canteens a day plus 1 glass

of water and 1 glass of Powerade with each meal. I pee a lot! I can honestly say I do not like BCT. It really is prison. I also think the DS's get off on whipping us.


The medic looked at me and has since left the room. Man, when you are a BCT private NO ONE treats you with any respect. Everyone treats you like you are a piece of crap! UPDATE: I just saw a real doctor. I think they are concerned its pneumonia. I am waiting to find out. I cannot afford to miss too much training or they will recycle me. This sucks! I don't feel too well and I am kinda dizzy. UPDATE 2: the PA just came back. He said I have a bacterial sinus and lung infection. He gave me Amoxicillin, cough drops, nasal spray and Tylenol. He also told me to leave.


I am back at the company area - alone. Everyone has gone rappelling and I am stuck sitting in a chair answering a phone. I am pretty depressed. I wish I could just go home. Since the doctor put me on light duty today, I just have to sit here, alone, until people return in oh...about 9 hours. The Drill Sergeants that wander around here are nasty. There are officers around as well and I am nervous around them as I am not sure how to act yet. Plus I need to use the latrine and there is no one around to relieve me (no pun intended). I hope you are doing better than I am. This may be a long letter since I have all day to write (or until I get caught). A couple of other privates sat down so at least I don't feel so lonely. BCT can be surprisingly lonely. Since the doctor said I can do things at my pace over the next 4 days, I will go back to duty. I can't sit here for 4 days! There is this one Sergeant that is here named McCready. He is a SERIOUSLY mean S.O.B. and I hate when he walks by! All of us sick call junkies are now just errand boys.


Side note: Sgt McCready was hanging around to go to Delta Force. We hear he runs 18 miles into work in PT's and boots with a 70lb ruck on. He also points this big ass knife at your throat if he feels like picking on Private. Nasty human being!


Just in case you are wondering, I am in the 4th squad of the 4th Platoon of Alpha Company. There are 14 guys per squad, 4 squads per platoon and 4 platoons per company. Each platoon shares barracks so there are 56 guys in my barracks. Oh! I will get a whole day pass off post with you the day before graduation! Then after the ceremony, I get another pass with you. Yeah! We hear that after week 5 we can earn our own off post pass so I am hopeful. I just hope I get the running down. My least favorite, Sergeant McCready just came by and yelled at us for no good reason. UPDATE: I just checked and my barracks are locked. ARGH! Where do I use the latrine? I was hoping to sneak a nap too. All the other sick people are mostly weird and not really friendly. This day is dragging - I think we are going to lunch soon. With no DS's around I plan to eat slowly for the first time in a long time. Lately the DS's have been pretty easy on us. I think they have something brewing, they always do!


Well I just had lunch - no yelling! It was peaceful. About 15 more people just showed up from the clinic so I have some company. I really hope I get a letter from you today! Mail came tonight and no letters yet. If I don't get one tonight I will start to get depressed.


August 16, 2003 

I woke up this morning drenched in sweat and with what appears to be pink eye. Why can't I get a fucking break? I hope they don't quarantine me and then I have to restart. I would consider leaving at that point I think. I am very depressed now and just want to come home! I haven't heard from you, I have spent the last 10 days sick as hell, and get abused by the DS's for being sick. I should have never left home.


August 17, 2003 

I went back to the TMC yesterday for the pink eye. They gave me drops. I felt pretty sick all day yesterday. We pissed off DS Hunter by talking in formation, having messy barracks, etc. He smoked us for 2 hours! He did it in the barracks so the floor had 1/2 inch of sweat on it - very gross and dirty. The whole time he ate a Big Mac and talked to his wife or girlfriend or something. Then we got inspired and for some reason started chanting "more PT Drill Sergeant...more PT ‘cause this shit don't hurt." That was a huge mistake as it just pissed him off more and he smoked us harder. They don't care about your health or hygiene here; 30 second showers don't get you clean, pushups on nasty barrack floors right before chow is common. No one can get their laundry done so we all wear nasty clothes over and over. I took to spraying my BDU's with Lysol. My hands, feet and nails are never clean. My teeth always feel gross too. I have lost my tan so I am super white boy by now. Overall I am still coughing and congested but seem to feel better today. The pink eye is looking better too. Don't expect a phone call anytime soon. The DS's do not care about your family and whether or not you speak to them. Ok so here is a typical day:


3:30am - wake up, mop the bay 

3:30-4:30am - shave, get dressed, be ready to go 

4:30-5am - formation with all platoons 

5am-6am - PT 

6am-7am - breakfast 

7am-noon - classes, marches, training 

noon-1pm - formation, lunch 

1pm-5pm - classes, marches, training 

5pm-6:30pm - dinner, formation 

6:30-7pm - DS discretion (training/smoking/etc) 

7pm-8pm - final formation 

8pm-9pm - personal time (but not really) 

9pm - lights out


During personal time we have to polish boots, shower, clean, etc. There is never enough time. The days are long and we all count the hours until lights out. Ft. Benning basic is unique amongst all the other basic training places. We seem to work harder and are given less privileges. Also, the immaturity of the 18 year olds is getting to me. They can't stand still. They can't shut up and they don't help with anything. All of the six guys who are 30 years+ are sick of it. I am down to 43 days. I can't wait! I mailed you a letter this morning but since it's Sunday and we do nothing but sit around on Sundays, I thought I'd start my next letter to you. We just got back from lunch chow. I had noodles, baked salmon, and garlic toast, a glass of water, a glass of Powerade and an apple. Chow time is good but if you talk or look around or take too long they give you the boot. DS Ahdunko is here today. We like him. He can be tough when he wants to be but he at least teaches us stuff. The dick DS Hunter finally went home, Thank God! I polished some boots earlier and Wentworth did our laundry. We had a big ole spider in the barracks this morning. It was fun to watch 50 guys run around and scream like girls. I avoided guard duty last night which means I will have it tonight. Guard duty sucks. They wake you up and you walk the barracks keeping track of everyone. After your hour, you wake the next guard and then try to go back to sleep. It runs from 9pm to 4am. Now, if you are lucky, you get the 9-10 shift and just sleep through the night. If not, you get the 2am-3am shift and try to get back to sleep for 45 minutes before everyone gets up. It sucks. Some nights we have guard duty AND CQ duty (where you sit and answer a phone). If you don't have one that night, you have the other. Injury update: my feet are good, no blisters - just slightly numb toes. No muscles hurt anymore and the bruises are all healed. Except for this horrible respiratory and sinus infection, I am surprisingly well. I guess they work you so much you get used to it. I have got to get the running thing worked out. It's my only real hurdle. One of the 38 year olds I met at MEPS that night you dropped me off is 3 bunks down! Cool huh?


Many guys haven't got letters and are pretty bummed out. Many others (including me) haven't spoken to family in weeks. It sucks morale out of you. So next week we start nuclear, bio, and chemical attack training. We also have a 7 mile non- tactical (no one hunts us?) road march in full gear. The gas chamber is the week after. We have 2 guys with torn ACL's, 3 guys with pink eye, about 20 guys with the same infection I have, 10 guys with raw blisters and 2 guys with pneumonia. Welcome to BCT! Everyone has sore feet, knees, shoulders and backs. OK, platoon nicknames: We have: Mini-Me, a 5'3" dude, Wall-Locker, a big fat dude, Dalmatian, a dude with one set of black eyelashes and one white, Gramps, the 38 year old guy, Crutches or Broke-Dick, a dude who has been on sick call 7 out of 10 days. That's all I can think of. More will be created I am sure. Tomorrow morning is running PT again. I am dreading it. I wish I could run better. I was able to do the obstacle and confidence courses with no problem though. I don't get it. We march better as a platoon but still suck way too much to get to sing. Right now it's just "Left, Left, Left Right Left", etc. Marching is fun and I like all the drill and ceremony with rifles. You will see it at graduation.


August 18, 2003 

Today has been horrible. I am really miserable. Most of the platoon is tired of all the DS's singling us out and smoking us. They make us stand at attention for hours. Platoons 1, 2, and 3 are busy learning things while we are continually beaten up. DS Hunter is such a major dick, it's unreal. His whole goal is not to teach us but to hurt us. People are falling out with knee, shoulder, and back problems. They beat you up if you fall out of runs. They don't help you - no interest in it. Also, according to DS Watkins, I fell out of a smoking so he put me on detail. That's where you spend 3 hours doing manual labor. It sucked! Today was a low day.


August 19, 2003 

Today was better than yesterday (so far - it's only 3pm). We had classes on our gas masks. The gas chamber is in 8 days. We also got a Nintendo but it's only for practicing shooting. The ARMY developed some sort of shooting game. No smokings so far today but there is still time. They introduced DS Johnson today. He is taking over for someone but we don't know who or why yet. Needless to say we all hope its DS Hunter! Now we are fighting over the laundry schedule again. These 18 year olds are wearing on my nerves. Apparently I got 3 letters from you yesterday but since I was on detail I won't get them until tonight - I can't wait!! Overall I am getting stronger. I have gained 8 lbs and there are noticeable muscle size increases. But I still cannot run so I am nervous about running tomorrow. DS Hunter threatened to give us counseling statements if we fall out of the run. That's bullshit and I am tired of being abused because I am a poor runner. They don't help, they just punish us. This is because all DS Hunter cares about is having the best platoon PT time - even at our health expense. Someone told me that my 4th year must be overseas. I am still trying to clarify this but the potential places they would send us are: Italy, Germany, Belgium, Japan, Hawaii, or Alaska. Maybe you can call or email SGT Wilson and ask him. Did I tell you that you are never clean here? It's pretty gross. At least my infection is slowly clearing up. Well, I am gonna go so I don't get in trouble. It took 11 days for DS Ahdunko to learn my name. I will continue to avoid the DS's and keep my head low.


August 20, 2003 

Things have been ok today. We got smoked again because some idiots were lying down - a big no-no! DS Ahdunko (the cool one) gave us 2 hours of free time tonight. It's nice to not have to sneak around. He also lets us use the weight bench which is a good privilege. Personally, I continue to be frustrated and irritated. No phone is killing me and I really fight the desire to just quit. I know in the end all of this will be a blur, but it's not real encouraging when you are stuck in this prison, you know? The DS won't give me my letters from yesterday. I don't know what is up but it's really frustrating. Tomorrow I have a PT run and I am nervous about getting clobbered for not keeping up.


August 21, 2003 

Guess what!? For the very first time I stayed with the PT run! Yeah! It took everything I had especially since DS Hunter was sprinting, but I did it! I was very pleased. Today started great with the run but turned sour quickly. DS Williams has left the cycle to attend ANOC School. Our new DS, Johnson, quickly established himself as a major hard-ass. We got smoked 5 times today. I can barely move. Between Hunter and Johnson, I don't know who is worse! Only Ahdunko saves the day when he shows up. My chest cold is slowly getting better. The pink eye is gone and the runny nose is almost gone. I still cough; have congestion and a perpetual sore throat. I woke up this morning with upper back pain and neck stiffness. Thank god the 7 mile road march is next week. I need time to heal. I am sure we will get smoked though. I have finally started getting a regular flow of letters from you and I feel much better! Last night I had fireguard from 11-midnight and its 4am so I am wiped. We have PT this morning and I am sure Hunter and Johnson will "bring the pain" as they like to say. So I have resorted to Lysol to "clean" my BDU's. I just cannot get to the wash. I will try to wash socks by hand tonight though. We all need haircuts BAD. My hair is really getting long. Hopefully next weekend is when total control 'should' end but who knows. I'm getting really good at the boot polishing! I tried to spit shine them but it didn't work. Oh well, it's not required. Wentworth is getting the crud now and I know how he feels. I gave him some Tylenol and cough drops I got from sick call, but I doubt it will help. I hate morning PT. Not looking forward to it. But at least breakfast will be good after. Today is more classroom stuff. It's really tough not to doze off. The DS's patrol and will smoke you for nodding off. Once we get out of total control, I should get weekend phone time. Keep your fingers crossed that I will be able to call within 2 weekends or so. I hope! OK, now I am going to get ready to leave.


Today we all learned that DS Johnson - although a hard-ass, is actually a cool guy and an excellent teacher. We were marching mo-fo’s today! We looked sharp! Plus we got to sing for the first time. Then we had a contest against platoons 2 and 3 where the DS's tested us on following orders, etc. We did really good overall and I hung in until the second to last round! Hunter went home early so we got to spend the day with DS Johnson.


It’s after dinner chow and it didn’t take us long to get in trouble. Some people were down doing laundry out of uniform - they were in sweats and flip flops. Stupid. Fuckers. The DS in charge of the night shift said he was telling Hunter tomorrow morning. Great.


August 22, 2003 

Letter 1 It's 4:15am and I wanted to finish this letter since I know we are in deep shit from last night so it might be a bad day. We have the PT run this morning and more classes all day. Hopefully I will have mail tonight. One dude (Broke-Dick) now says he is suicidal. As such, we have to post 2 ADDITIONAL guards on him at all times - great. More people awake through the night. We think he is lying to go home. Oh! We went to the PX yesterday to restock. I got polish, baby wipes, more writing paper, stickups, bug repellant, some T-shirts, and socks. We should get a haircut today. My hair is long! Some people finally got body powder. As you know, I brought it with me, so I powder my feet, body, etc everyday so I don't smell. AND! Last night I took a 10 minute shower! Woo! Well I will sign off so I can mail this. PLEASE WRITE! It helps me so much!


August 22, 2003 

Letter 2 Got another letter from you. Thanks! It helps so keep 'em coming. Today was a good day. We did morning PT and ran. I ran a 6:30 mile, in formation! AND a 14:00 minute 2 mile, in formation. Granted I felt like I was gonna die, but I was not going to fall out and get smoked in the mud again. My first PT test 2 weeks ago I ran a 21:00 minute 2 mile - what a difference! Injury update: My toes on both feet are still numb and my feet just generally hurt. I pulled my left thigh muscle. Both palms of my hands are black and blue (now can you imagine how many pushups I do??) My infection is almost gone but I am still coughing. My fingers aren't swollen anymore, but my lower back is bruised. All in all, not bad. DS Johnson let us sing during our march today and we looked/sounded awesome. I signed up for the new laundry service which will cost me about $4.50 a week. NOT BAD! We had classes most of today on land navigation. Next week should be fun. Monday we have a 7 mile road march. Then they will leave us in the field with no DS's and we have to land navigate ourselves home. Fun! I finally got my hair cut today and it feels much better. Wednesday is the dreaded gas chamber. Next Friday is end of phase testing; I have to pass to move on. Next Saturday is PT test #2. We are entering our 3rd week. If we do well, we should get off total control. That means the DS's will go home and I should get Sunday phone time. Let's hope. Overall I am in great spirits. The first couple weeks are very trying but I am adapting. I just miss you a lot. Victoria's letter was cute. I will write her again soon. If you send pictures, make sure they are ones you like. DS's will look at ALL photos so be careful. I have gained 8lbs here and I have like 5% body fat. I am all ripped. It's cool. I have fireguard from midnight to 1am. Boo! So the commander just allowed us to have more laundry time since it wasn't getting done and it's really gross. I don't care much since I will soon be using the service. The guys in the platoon are slowly getting shit together. There are still problems but maybe they will work it out. Lord I hope so; I am so tired of being smoked. I hear from prior service guys and DS Johnson that Ft. Sam Houston is nice and I will have a lot of liberties. Cell phone being #1 baby! Well, it's close to lights out.


August 23, 2003 

Well it's 4:15am on Saturday morning. I am really tired since I had guard from 12- 1am. Just when you get deep asleep, they wake you. Sucks! We have PT this morning but I hope it's kind of light. I feel kinda weak today. I also hope it's not DS Hunter this morning. He'll swagger in here, turn on the lights and smoke us for no reason. Then he'll just be a dick the rest of the day. Hopefully, it's Johnson or Ahdunko so we can learn something. In the mornings we aren't allowed to turn the lights on so we have to get ready via flashlight and security lights. Well, I gotta jet. Time to finish getting ready. There is like 100 things to do and never any time. Well, it's Saturday at 7:20pm. Today we did PT and ran...again - UGH. I felt really tired but did the best I could. Then we spent the rest of the morning digging ditches, mowing grass, painting, sweeping and cleaning. After lunch, we went back to the barracks and have sat around ever since. Thus another Saturday. Tomorrow will be even lazier and we get to sleep in to 5am! Not much to report. My throat still hurts but when I blow my nose it's finally clear. DS Johnson yelled at me today while cleaning. Me, Wentworth, Ward and a couple others were on cleaning duty with Johnson and I had this stick I found and was just carrying around. So Johnson calls me over and tells me to use the stick to clean out this hole in a wall. I stuck it in and a huge spider jumped out. I jumped and dropped the stick. He called me a pussy, a coward, a wimp, girl and a few other choice words. Then he picked up the stick and finished cleaning the hole. The thing is why were we even cleaning the hole?? You just can't ask questions.


August 24, 2003 

It's Sunday and we just got back from lunch. Right before lunch we got smoked. I don't even know why anymore! It's just getting old. Six more weeks I keep saying to myself. Sometimes it's like ugh - enough already! I am really tired today. You just never get to catch up on sleep. Oh, I forgot to tell you on the PT test I took at Reception (to qualify for Basic), I did the required 13 pushups and 17 sit-ups and ran the mile in 7:47. It was 13 seconds faster than my fastest time at home. I just dread running days. I am so bad at it. After lunch today I ran back upstairs and felt some shooting pain in my right shin. Hopefully it's nothing too bad. Guys are still fighting in here. Everyone wants to do their own thing. I have ducked away from any squad leader type positions as I have no interest in dealing with these people. I just keep my head down and do what the DS's say. The DS's don't know me by name so that's a really good thing. Oh, I forgot to tell you. I met this really nice guy named Huertas. He is from Puerto Rico. I forgot the city but its 40 minutes from where you are from. He has a wife back home and is sometimes kind of bummed. He speaks very little English but he invited us to his home in PR next time we visit. We have another guy here named Simon who is like PVT Pyle from Full Metal Jacket. Overweight, inept, can't grasp the simplest things - but he's really nice and tries hard. DS Hunter and Ahdunko pick on him a lot. So far, we keep our wall lockers organized but they have yet to inspect them. It must be coming soon. You would be proud! My locker is really organized (but I still have a messy personal drawer) and I can make a mean bed now! I have like 8 stickups in my locker trying to keep it fresh. I ended up giving those key locks I brought away. It's too hard to not lose the keys. I have combo locks now.


We just changed from BDU's to PT uniforms. That means we will exercise or do some crap detail like pulling weeds. I put your photo up in my locker. I seriously cannot wait to get out of here. Believe it or not, we are almost never in the sun. It's too hot, so we stay in this covered outdoor area mostly. If we are going to something like the obstacle course, we march before the sun comes out. Last time we did the obstacle course, we were so dirty that they hosed us down with a giant hanging fire hose! Crazy! Sunday night update: we had a briefing where they tried to sell us rings, you know like the ones from high school? What a waste of money. Did I tell you that I had pictures taken? They will be in within a few weeks. We just found out that wake up is 3am instead of 4am tomorrow! AAAH! Therefore I decided to redo the platoon fireguard schedule. Wish me luck on the road march! We just packed our rucksacks so we will be hauling about 60lbs plus the helmet plus the rifle. Phew.


August 25, 2003 

What a day! We got up at 3am. Got dressed and took our fully loaded rucksacks downstairs. In the rucksack we had 3 changes of clothes, bio/chemical suit and boots, raincoat, wet weather pants, poncho, plus the heavy ass pack itself. Under the pack we wear an overall-type thing. Attached to that are 2 full canteens, 2 ammo pouches, flashlight, first aid kit, etc. We wore full BDU's, a Kevlar helmet and had our M16 rifles. Total weight: 55lbs plus 8lbs for the rifle. Then at about 5am, off we went. We marched about 3.5 miles uphill, through the backwoods on unpaved sandy roads. It was rough. I was sucking wind when we arrived at the site. Nothing hurt but I was tired. Then we had breakfast in the field and then broke into teams of 4. We had a compass, a map and 4 hours to navigate the course through woods, swamps, etc. Then we had lunch and a bunch of classes on communication. We loaded up around 3pm to march home - it was 99% humidity and 98 degrees. I almost died! My back and legs were killing me. I was soaking wet from head to toe. I had 4-5 blisters form on each foot. I also rolled my ankle and jammed my toe so I had to march on a bum foot. It was the single hardest thing I have ever done! I cannot even explain how physically exhausted I am. My shoulders, back and feet are killing me. I am limping around. But all in all, it was fun and went well. They graciously let us lay around the rest of the night. It's 7pm and I am writing this while DS Johnson councils the 18 year olds on how to "get pussy." It's really funny to see this little class he is giving. I got a zillion letters from Todd, Lyle, you and Pop today. Keep 'em coming! I have CQ duty tonight from 10-11. That's where I sit downstairs and answer the phone. At least it's with Wentworth. If all goes well, total control will end this week. Man I hope so! I'd like to pee on my own time! I have to moleskin up my feet tomorrow so I can walk. PT will be interesting!


August 26, 2003 

I woke up this morning (its 4:15am) and feel horrible. My nose is stuffed and I have a sore throat. My shoulders and lower back are killing me and my blisters are making it tough to walk. We have the bayonet training course today and I don't think I will be able to run it very well. For some reason I am bummed this morning and really miss you a lot. I am just physically and mentally exhausted I guess. This whole thing is like a bad dream and it just won't end soon enough! We have PT this morning so I am not looking forward to that. It sucks that I will do morning PT throughout my ARMY career. Tomorrow is the gas chamber and I am nervous. They say it will get rid of any colds or flu you might have. Wentworth has been to Basic before and said it's pretty bad. Fun. Our next march will be even longer than yesterday's. The two after those will be longer still. I have no idea how I, physically, will do them. My cough just won't go away and it's just plain annoying. Wentworth is getting sick and might have pink eye. I gave him my drops so he doesn't have to go to sick call. Well it's time to go and get ready.


It's Tuesday about 6:30pm. Just to let you know, letters are flowing regularly! Please tell SGT Gill I have received all his letters and his words are greatly

appreciated. I am not so bummed anymore even though the day started rough. We went to a huge field with our rifles and attached the bayonets via some long and ridiculous routine. Then we learned slashing and killing techniques. No matter how hard they try, I don’t seem to be becoming a violent person. While I am getting physically fit, my mental state and personality has not been altered at all. I am exactly the same as when you found me. My feet are in agony! I mole- skinned the blisters and limped the rest of the day. Tomorrow is the dreaded gas chamber!! I started laundry service today so hopefully that will help. It's been horribly hot and humid!


So we just went downstairs to take some gear down for tomorrow and got smoked by another DS for no reason! Dicks! Sometimes they are really irritating. That last smoking aggravated my already sore shoulder. I tell you this stuff gets old!


August 27, 2003 

It's 4:15am on Wednesday. We have to run this morning, but with my blisters, sore back, sore shins and sore calves, I have no clue how I will do this - I can barely walk. It's always at times like this that I just want to come home and say screw this! The DS's won't care if I am limping. They will still smoke me in the mud. Sometimes I feel like I should have just stayed home. Well I am signing off to mail this. Today may be the worst day so far first with the run and then the gas chamber.


Its 6pm and we are back from the gas chamber. There is no doubt that I will never forget that experience. As expected, Ft. Benning uses more CS gas than the other BCT bases. So here is how it went: we put on all our gear and boarded cattle cars with our rifles. Exactly like prisoners! It was about a 12 mile drive. We arrived in the middle of this dusty area with a couple nondescript buildings. After standing around for an hour, we put on our masks and got briefed. The masks are hot and it's tough to breath. Then they filed our platoon into a brick building. Once inside, you couldn't really see. Then they lined us up and turned us so our backs were to the exit. Your hands and neck are already burning (like a bad sunburn). Then all of the sudden you hear screaming from other people! I looked over my shoulder and they are turning 3 people at a time around. They pull off their masks, put them in the carrying case and then put on their helmet. No one can leave until all 3 men are ready. Then they grab each other and head out. All you hear is screaming and crying and puking. My heart was pounding. They turned me and 2 others around and it began. I pulled off my mask and my eyes were on fire. The snot started pouring out of my nose and I started coughing up spit and phlegm. Then my chest tightened and I started to gasp for air. I got my mask put away and my helmet on quickly, but the other 2 idiots were taking a really long time! I started jumping around and spitting everyplace. There is no way to describe the feeling. Finally we started on our way out. I was pushing the other 2 to get them outside. When we got outside, it took a couple of minutes to recover. We were hacking, burning and snotting all over. A photographer was right next to me when I got out so I gave him thumbs up. THEN it got bad. DS Johnson sees me and asks "was that too easy private?" A trick question? So I said "too easy drill sergeant." Guess what he did? He made me go through again since it was so easy! I could have died. It was a horrible experience. Then we did nuclear bomb drills in the sand which, mixed with immense sweat and CS gas, made a nice paste on my skin.


DS Johnson just informed us that total control ends tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed! Tomorrow also begins our 4th week. I am almost 1/2 way. I will do a little dance of joy when BCT is over! Injury update: Both big toes are throbbing. I still have massive blisters on my feet. The toe I jammed is black and blue and I think I am going to lose the nail. My lower back is killing me and I am fatigued. What a mess I am. My motivation has suffered since the road march as I am just wiped out. Hopefully it will pick up again. I fell out of the run this morning as DS Hunter just ran too fast. Friday is my 2nd PT test. Oh! So a guy said something smartass to DS Johnson. He was SO PISSED that he threw the weight bench and all the 250lbs of weight on it across the barracks! When he did this, he broke his finger. Man was he LIVID! I thought he was gonna beat the hell out of the guy! It was pretty scary. Finally he calmed down, smoked the guy and started joking again. Wentworth and I have to go polish boots. Back later.


Boots are polished and I took a long shower. Wentworth is telling me about his wife and kids. He really misses them. I can sympathize. My biggest issue is my feet. I am going to sleep with them elevated on my rucksack. Not much else to report except my cough is on its 4th week. Very annoying! Okay, lights out in 5.


August 28, 2003 

Well it's 4am again. I am bummed this morning and I feel like quitting! I am still sick (in my 4th week) and I woke up with my eyes infected again! Plus my sinus infection looks like it's returned. I just have no more energy to fight anymore. I want to end this and just come home and heal. Please say something inspiring and great! I want to hear your voice so bad. I was bummed since I got no mail last night. Today is pugil stick fighting and I just don't feel like it. I will talk to Wentworth for inspiration. BCT may be just too hard for me to conquer, especially at age 33. Being sick for 4+ weeks is destroying my spirit. They hate people on sick call so it's not even an option. Besides, all they gave me was Tylenol. What should I do? Well it's time to make my bunk and tend to my blisters.


NEWS FLASH: Total Control has been lifted! Yes! They removed total control. So what does that mean? Not a lot really. We can walk ourselves back from chow and to/from sick call. Plus the DS's leave earlier. That's about it to start with. We did win the pugil sticks matches against the other platoons so we each get a 10 minute phone call!! I will hopefully call tonight or tomorrow. I am very excited! Today we all fought with the pugil sticks then ran a 1/4 mile in 100 degrees to the obstacle course. Burned up the obstacle course (setting a company record) and then ran the 1/4 mile back. I am wiped! Tomorrow is the 2nd PT test and I am again nervous about the run.


I just got off the phone with you!! That totally energized me. I wish I was able to talk to you more often. Its tough being away. Wentworth couldn't get through to his wife and I feel really bad for him. I know that feeling. Hearing your voice after 3+ weeks was great! Ooh! Dinner time - more later.


Back from dinner. I actually ate too much! Since laundry is still a chore, I

washed some socks, underwear and t-shirts in the latrine sink. I have to come up with a creative way to wash my BDU's now. If I sink-wash them, I have to find a place to hang them to dry. What a pain. Everyone is just sitting around relaxing. It's nice to be out of total control. If I could only get this cough to go away! A guy just volunteered to wash my BDU's with his stuff. Hopefully he won't lose my stuff! Guys lose stuff all the time. Don't forget to wish me luck on the PT test tomorrow. I hope I do okay. We have one guy in the platoon named Flowers. He can do almost 300 pushups! Crazy huh? I have to go polish my boots soon. They are nasty from the obstacle course - which is all dirt and sand. Everything gets covered - in your t-shirt, pants, etc. DS Hunter has CQ tonight which means he is the DS on duty all night. That sucks because if he gets a hair up his ass, he could wake the whole platoon for no reason. I have fireguard from 12-1am. Bah. Also there are 2 DS's from Puerto Rico: DS Torres and DS Alomar. Torres is ok - he yells with a Spanish accent which makes him sort of amusing. Alomar is a major jerk. He hates our platoon and lets us know it all the time. But it is funny when he tells everyone in his Spanish accent "pro'ally, you will die." All in all, the platoon is functioning pretty okay. Well, it's time to sign off and polish boots.


Boots are polished! Yeah! They look pretty good actually. I'll polish something of yours even. This constant hacking cough is making me crazy! It just won't stop. UGH! Today I got a letter from you, your mom, Sgt. Gill and Peter. I was very happy. My blisters are getting better since I popped them (someone snuck me a pin). Hopefully I can attempt to run tomorrow. Mornings always suck; 3:45am is just too early to get up. I am going to start running on my own tomorrow night since we are off total control. Maybe I can get better. Any news from FSU football? You gotta stay on top of that you know. I have to make sure to drink a whole canteen tonight. That's called water hydration and its "supposed" to be good for you; it just makes me pee a lot. Okay, it's shower time.


August 29, 2003 

It's 4:15am Friday. We have to take PT test #2 and I am nervous. I did 35 pushups, 30 sit-ups and 2 miles in 21 minutes last time. I'd like to beat that but I feel so awful, I just don't know. Of course running is my demon. It scares me. Wentworth says it's a mental thing I have to get over, but I just don't know how. My eyes seem okay this morning. My lower back and left shoulder are sore but I took 3 Tylenol (I saved them) and I hope it helps. I popped all the blisters so they are cleaning up. I am tired since I had fireguard from 12-1am. Hungry too! After PT, I am not sure what they have in store for us. They never tell you, they just march you to something and off you go! Not much else to report except I miss you and am glad I talked to you yesterday. That lifted my spirits!


Well it's 7:15pm. Today was the PT test. I did 35 pushups on the 1st test and 38 on this one. I did 30 sit-ups on the first one and 48 on this one. I did 21:14 on the first 2 mile run and did 16:34 on this one! Since I only need 36p/42s/17:42r to pass, I passed! Yeah! But I am totally fatigued. Then we finished our phase I testing: administering nerve agent antidote and putting on the gas mask in 9 seconds. I passed everything. We are officially in Phase II. They did a little flag ceremony too. Then to remind us we are still in BCT, DS Johnson smoked us for 1 1/2 hours in the dirt and hot sun. It was the worst smoking so far. I can hardly walk. By the way, smoking is the DS's form of punishment. It consists of exercise over time designed to cause muscle failure. For example, we may do pushups in slow cadence until everyone drops to their knees. Then they'd switch to jumping jacks until you can't stand. Then back to pushups. Then to the overhead arm claps, bear crawls, cherry pickers, monkey- fuckers, football drills, sit-ups, flutter kicks, donkey kicks, etc. They do this until you can't move. Then they do some more. It sucks but it's designed to condition. It happens less often these days though. Drills will often take you on a march right after a smoking. There are no breaks. You may go to chow soaked in sweat and sand from head to toe. Nice huh? I decided I have to go back to sick call tomorrow. The coughing is so bad I am throwing up. Hopefully I can get some cough suppressant! I can't wait for Sunday. They are usually very light days and we can relax some. Next week we start learning to shoot. It's a 2 week activity. Oh and DS Hunter is leaving Sept 22 to head to ranger school. Yeah!! He's a big dickhead. I ordered a platoon group photo, a BCT yearbook and a 1 hour video of our cycle. Hopefully I will be in it, but at least you will get to see exactly what things like the gas chamber are. It will be in within a few weeks. I have no guard duty tonight so I get to sleeeeeep! I have been at basic for 21 days. 32 more to go. Almost 1/2 way. Thank God! Well since there is no mail here Saturday and Sunday, I will keep writing over the weekend. Bad news: no mail Friday or Monday either due to Labor Day. OK, shower time.


August 30, 2003 

It's Saturday at 5:30am. I decided I have no choice but to go on sick call. I am just all messed up. I was up all night having coughing fits. It's causing me to lose sleep and have constant headaches. I shouldn't miss any training because it's Saturday.


So it's 2:30pm and I went to sick call. Of course they can do nothing to help me but I got Nasonex, 800mg Ibuprofen and cough syrup. The TMC sucks. I will do a better job at my TMC. Oh! Please ask Sgt. Gill a question for me. Remember I said I improved on my PT scores? Well I got an overall 200 which means I passed the PT test. Ask Sgt. Gill if it's true that because I passed PT test #2 that, technically even if I fail APFT #'s 3 and 4, I'd still graduate. Thanks. Only 25 people out of 57 passed so I am happy about that. Wentworth washed my laundry while I was at sick call. How cool huh? Apparently, the PT is going to get harder now that we are in Phase II. I really don't like the PT at all. DS Johnson smoked us today because someone who got a 10 minute phone call (on his honor) stayed on for 19 minutes. 18 year olds. Not much else going on.


August 31, 2003 

It's Sunday at 6am. Getting ready for breakfast (yeah!). Coughed most of the night and had 3-4am fireguard so I am exhausted! Today should be quiet. Last night DS Johnson popped in around 7pm and gave a bible study class. Weird. Injury update: still congested but getting better, still coughing but my headaches and toes are getting better, blisters are gone, lower back is sore. Not too shabby overall. Well, I have to make my bunk, etc.


I went to church this morning to try and escape for a bit. Church is pretty boring. They kinda run it like mini-Basic because you have to form up and march over - so it's still all military-like. Oh well. I am so tired. I got little sleep...again. I have resigned to the fact that I will feel like this until the bitter end. At this point I still think this might have been a mistake. Some of these guys are naturally made for this. It's an effort for me. I guess it doesn't matter since I am required to fulfill my obligation. Hopefully I can get into nursing or PA school. Years from now I hope we gain something from all of this. It's pretty humid today so I am happy to stay indoors. Tomorrow starts another hard week - something I am not looking forward to (as usual). Wish me luck as we start shooting this week. It's big important! Okay, I'm gonna stick this insane letter in the mail.


I decided to start your next letter. It's 3pm on Sunday and I am bored. My coughing fits are so fierce. It's really bad and I have NO solution. The ARMY is no help with this, nor do they care. This is pure observation but I am pretty sure they will let me cough to death. Oh sure maybe I could go on sick call again and get cough drops, but if I do, I will miss training which could result in being totally restarted! See my problem? This is what feeds my frustration here and my desire to just leave. Please ask Sgt. Gill if he has any ideas to help. The coughing is interfering with everything plus I am completely sore everywhere. My throat and lungs are raw, my chest muscles are sore and I have a constant headache. Seriously, it's contributing to my depression. I don't want to quit but I am close to just throwing in the towel. I just don't know what to do or where to turn. At least I got paid my paltry Army wages.


September 1, 2003 

Today is a holiday so we have a cleaning day after PT. I am still very sick. I woke up a number of times gasping for air, coughing, etc. I could go to sick call again today but they'll just give me crap. This is so aggravating! I just want to get better. I am going to try to do PT this morning but I don't think it will go too well. We are gonna Lysol and bleach the barracks today - maybe killing whatever is causing this. Others are sick but not as long as me. Well, formation is soon.


We did PT this morning. Mostly just pushups and sit-ups so that was okay. I had a lot of breathing problems but I survived. Now we are cleaning the bunks and mattresses with bleach to try and kill the germs. I have fireguard from 2-3am tonight - joy. Tomorrow we start shooting. That's like the biggest thing here. Do well and the DS's are happier. Keep your fingers crossed. Shooting will go on for the next 2 weeks! After that, we are down to just 3 weeks. As of today we have 38 days to go. We now have 4 people in the infirmary for sickness and 10 more went to sick call today. Its nuts! I can't wait for tomorrow night, mail from Friday, Saturday, Monday and Tuesday! I bet I have a ton. It's 2:15pm on Monday. So far we have done nothing today. I still feel like crap. I heard DS Johnson is taking us marching. That's the whole company (all 4 platoons). It's gonna suck to try and get 240 guys to coordinate. Can I also say it's humid as hell here in Georgia. I hope it cools down sometime soon. Wentworth still hasn't spoken to his wife since reception. He is always bummed and I feel bad. Wentworth told me that due to safety concerns, the DS's will be major assholes on the range. I also heard that if you point the rifle in their direction, they will knock you the fuck out. Oh! Please tell me if FSU won any of their games. I need to know. Well I am gonna sign this letter off and drop it in the mail. I took the little I-zone picture you sent me and I carry it in my pocket all the time.


OK I lied. It's Monday after dinner. Still sick (of course) but nothing else seems to hurt. I am praying I sleep straight through tonight! DS Johnson marched us around for awhile. If all I had to do was march and sing, basic would be a blast. You will be so proud watching me march and twirl the rifle, etc.


September 02, 2003 

Today was some day. We got up at 5:00am and did a company run. That's 200+ guys running on the road (no track) for 2.5 miles, up hills, down hills, up hills, down hills.... holy crap I thought I was gonna croak. But somehow I hung in and finished it (albeit near the very back). Ok now the BAD news...DS Williams, the Nazi DS who was here the first 3 days, left and was replaced by the much cooler DS Johnson...well now he's back!! The whole platoon was mortified as he went Nazi on us like this was day one! After some digging around and eavesdropping, we learned he is only here for 8 days while we do BRM (shooting). That's still 8 days too long. He made us miserable all day. He is evil. Moving along, we loaded our gear and got onto buses to go the range. After trying to figure out the damn rules, we got into our foxholes and attempted to "zero" the rifle. Basically setting the rifle sights so you shoot straight. I didn't qualify. I will have to try again tomorrow. Also, while we were on the range, it started to pour rain but we kept shooting. Then it thundered and lightening so the Drills ran us out to the middle of the range and made us lay down in the water and mud for 30+ minutes, shivering in the driving rain. Eventually they got tired of waiting and put us on the buses back. Not one single thing was dry or warm on me! I slept in sweats and a knit hat last night and I slept better actually. I think we have another road run tomorrow. Fun, not! I am still sick so nothing new to report on that front. Laundry is backed up again of course. Man, I cannot wait for this crap to end! Two more PT tests, BRM, grenades and the 3 day war exercise and it's over! This Thursday starts week 5 and just 37 more days to go! Wentworth told me he didn't think the ARMY was for me. I complain too much, worry too much and question too much. I guess I do. I will try to work on that. Not much else to say. I have to hop in the shower and get to bed. No guard duty tonight. Fuck yeah!


September 03, 2003 

It's 4:15am. I am up and finished with my morning chores so I have time to write. Last night I slept better than I have in about 2 weeks. My nose is still stuffed but my cough "seems" to be easing a bit. I have a PT run this morning and then it's back to the range. I gotta figure out how to shoot better. Maybe Wentworth is right and I am just not cut out for this? We'll see I guess. Last night I got 3 letters from you, 1 from Peter, 1 from Holly, 1 from Kate, 1 from Pop and 1 from Lyle. Please tell everyone to keep writing!! Hopefully the DS's will ease a bit today. They seem to be worse earlier in the week. I guess they are rested. The DS's always tell us our wives/girlfriends will breakup with you while you are here. Believe it or not, you start to almost believe them since you have no contact or ability to do anything. It's weird. No mail tonight. Please continue to write often!


We had another road run. I ran the whole thing but mostly from the wayyyy back. Oh! And I zeroed my rifle FINALLY! Basically you stand in a foxhole and position your rifle on sandbags. You shoot 6 shots at a 25 meter (~75 feet) target that has a little bitty image on it. The little image simulates a 300 meter (~900 ft) target. After you shoot 6, a DS adjusts your rifle sights. Then you keep shooting in groups of 3 until you get 6 more shots dead center, tightly grouped. But this is what you see in the rifle sights: a dot. But I did it in 18 shots. Yeah! Some did it in 6 shots, some in 50, some not at all. Now all I have to do is qualify on popup targets (23/40). I have like 2 weeks so no biggie. I'm not too worried. I think we have a run tomorrow again. OK with the running! We eat chow in the field with the ants so that's always fun too. Laundry is piled high so I hand washed a few things, Lysoled and Fabreezed other stuff. Tomorrow starts week 5 of 9. Yeah! Overall I am in good spirits. I am only coughing sometimes and my sinuses are clearing a bit. I am hopeful I will get to 100%. I have been operating from 25-75% since I arrived. DS Williams came back again as expected. 7 more days until Satan leaves again. DS Ahdunko called me a bitchy little girl today for asking a question. It was funny. He's a cool DS - no joke! No guard duty tonight, but DS Alomar took my name down today for talking in chow line. He has late night CQ duty and could keep me up doing detail. As of 8:15pm I haven't heard anything so my fingers are crossed he forgot. I chat a lot but usually avoid the DS's. I guess you can't hide forever. Well I have to finish getting ready for bed. Don't worry, I am doing fine. I'd still rather leave....but I will finish this BCT stuff. I am pretty sure now.


September 04, 2003 

It's 4:05am on Thursday. I slept well finally (no coughing). I feel pretty good but my calves are sore. I HOPE today is a pushup/sit-up day and not the 4th straight run day. My trick of sleeping in sweats and the knit hat continues to work. I have had a good sleep every night I wear it. I already know you will confiscate the sweats...they are SUPER soft and comfy. I signed up for laundry duty from 11-12 tonight to try and get laundry done. I hope I can get it washed.


This is nutso. I think we are shooting at targets today instead of trying to zero. Hopefully! Zeroing is boring, hot and long. Firing the rifle is pretty cool. You wear ear plugs of course. I know you don't like guns, but they have major safety precautions so no dumb 18 year old kills someone. They have up to 100 people at a time shooting.


September 05, 2003 

Yesterday was awful. First we went to the 2nd range where we shot at simulated distance targets (100m, 200m, 300m, etc.). You had to hit at least 12/20 each time. I hit 10/20, 8/20 and 8/20 so I suck. I hope I get better. Then when we got back to the barracks, DS Hunter went CRAZY!! He smoked us for over an hour, destroyed the barracks and put us back on total control! This sucks! Now it's like day 1 all over. I am so pissed and upset. I can't wait to get the HELL out of here!!! Not a great day. I have no clue what's in store for us today. Hopefully no more running. My legs are killing me and I seriously need a run break. But since the Drills are insane around here, my bet is we run. Give me the strength to get through this hellhole. We are back on total control but no one thinks it will last. DS Johnson smoked us bad. Then we cleaned the barracks and our rifles. Tomorrow we are road marching some unknown distance to a rifle range - full of gear of course. DS Ahdunko is still the cool DS and treats us pretty good. DS Hunter left early today so he has been out of our hair. Not much else to report. We are in our 5th week and I think time will fly now. I have CQ duty from 7pm-8pm. Basically I sit and answer the phone.


September 06, 2003 

This will be short this morning. It's 3am and we have a 5 mile straight road march (full gear) this morning. I got 2 letters from you yesterday with photos! YEAH! I will write more later.


Hey! It's 8pm. Well we marched for 5.5 miles in full gear. The morning air was cool so that was nice. Most of the walk/march was uphill. I used a ton of foot powder and moleskin on my feet and took 2 Tylenol and 1-800mg Ibuprofen before we left. I'm drugged! I made it no problem and with just 1 blister. My back, feet, knees and shoulders feel pretty good. We marched to the rifle range. This was a range where targets at 50, 100, 150, 200, 250, and 300 meters pop up randomly. This was an expert range so it was super tough. Anywho, this is prequalification. You need 23/40 to qualify and I shot 21/40. Not bad! I think I can qualify on Thursday. I was pretty happy. We ate breakfast and lunch in the field and took a cattle car back around 5pm. We had dinner chow and now we are relaxing - so to speak. I am gonna hop in the shower.


I'm back. Tomorrow is Sunday so we get to "sleep in" until 6! I think I will go to church as well. Probably Mormon with my friend Ward. He is 38. I met him at MEPS! Wentworth says he wants the 4 of us (you, me, him and Leslie) to meet for dinner and maybe do some gambling in Atlantic City over Christmas. So we are seriously trying to get off total control again. Our only saving grace is DS Hunter is GONE for good in 16 days. Ahdunko and Johnson will release total control because they are cool like that. Also, no duty for me tonight...YEAH! My theory of sleeping in sweats and knit hat continue to work great. I am almost over being sick and sleep all night. 

We have some new nicknames: 

"AppleJacks" is the guy who got busted with cereal in his locker. They Article 15'd him so that little bowl of cereal cost him $250! 

I am "Old Guy." 

"Uncle Fester" is a pale blonde guy who looks like he is part of the Addams Family. 

There's "Tangerine" (his name is Tangen). 

There's also "Small Smith," "Medium Smith," "Large Smith," "XL Smith" and "Dumb Smith." Yes we have 5 Smiths. Sometimes the barracks can be a funny place. Sometimes you want to stick needles in your eyes.


September 07, 2003 

It's 6pm on Sunday. We have free time until 8:30pm then its lights out. I have guard from 11-12 and wakeup is at 3:30am. So I went to the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints today. It was actually pretty interesting. It kept me entertained for 3 hours. I think it's the fact that it's something other than Basic. Also, I went to the PX today and bought another PT uniform, hand sanitizer, razors, Chapstick and moleskin. I have a road run in the morning and shooting the rest of the day. Tomorrow is Monday so the DS's will be on super dickhead patrol. They come back from the weekends like pit bulls. This Thursday starts week 6! Getting closer to the end baby! I have 3 things left to worry about: 10 mile march, final PT test and qualifying on the rifle range.


September 08, 2003 

It's 3:30am Monday morning. We have a road run this morning which you know I hate. Then it's off to the shooting range. I slept pretty well but feel a little dizzy this morning - I don't know why. It's actually pretty cold outside. I hope the summer heat is starting to fade - but I doubt it. Today we get clean linens so that's good. Some mornings I am really bummed, like today. DS Ahdunko told us last night that we have a final 5 mile run we have to do. I cannot do that so I am worried. Please ask Sgt. Gill what happens if you can't complete that or if you fail some part of Basic. The DS's here say you will restart. If that happened I would refuse the restart and try to come home. I'm nervous! Also, please ask Sgt. Gill if you pass one APFT, but it's not the last one, will you still graduate. DS Ahdunko also told us the last week is a 10 mile march to the field exercise and 10 miles back 3 days later. Since my legs are killing me, all this makes me very nervous that I cannot do it. Please ask Sgt. Gill and write me ASAP with the answers. I am mailing this today so you can get it and ask him for me. This bites.


It's 8pm. This morning we did our road run. I ran with the slug group. Actually, I made it but did feel close to death at the end. Then we went to yet another practice range. On my first attempt, my rifle jammed and misfired. By the time I cleared it, I only got a few shots off. On attempt #2 I got 14/40. I need 23/40 to pass by Thursday. Now I am nervous! Tomorrow, apparently, we are getting more hepatitis shots. No shooting so who knows what the drills will think up. Oh! I got my first individual smoking last night! When a DS enters the room the first person to see him has to yell 'AT EASE' to alert everyone. Well I didn't. So Johnson put me in the middle of the barracks and the whole platoon got around me in a loose circle. Then like a clock, I had to do a pushup to the first person, hand walk in the pushup position to the next person and do a pushup, etc. All the way around 2 times! It was so hard! When I got done (I did it) I did 67 walking pushups. My arms were shaking. Oh well, it happens to most everyone sometime. It just took 5 1/2 weeks to get to me. DS Hunter continues to be the biggest asshole I have ever come across. DS Johnson is now feeding on Hunter's attitude because he thinks we think he is a soft drill. So he has changed into Hunter #2. Only DS Ahdunko saves us from total annihilation, but he isn't always here. Now the drills are messing with us by each giving us different rules and then saying we are playing them against each other when we mess them up. It's childish and demoralizing. I feel like I am in high school. The platoon is not happy with the lack of training and over use and abuse of "corrective punishment." This problem exists only in our platoon. It's a horrible intro to the ARMY and an even worse intro to drills. I have NO respect for Hunter and Johnson. They haven't earned it. I got 2 letters from you. Keep them coming! They are my salvation. My spirits are up and down daily. The older guys here feel much like I do. I don't think it's all of Basic, but rather, 4th Platoon in Alpha Company 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment. Our training is NOT like other non-infantry training. They exceed limits and sometimes I feel like if I were to fail Basic, I would refuse to restart and just come home. In comparison, Bravo Company who showed up 3 days ago is training properly and we are envious. Oh well, this is the hand I was dealt! Well I have boots to polish. Say a prayer that I can get through another day


September 09, 2003 

It's 4:15am on Tuesday. As usual, I am bummed. It seems to be more prevalent in the mornings. I am not sure why though. I think we are running again. Christ’s sake with the running! I try to like it but I just don't. It continues to be my demon here. I slept pretty good but had a coughing attack. Overall I feel okay but my knees and ankles are getting sore. I hope they hold up. Well time to go.


Hey! So it's 6:15pm and what a day. I decided to go to sick call this morning for my knees and get some Advil. The medic told me he wanted x-rays so I had to go to another TMC and get x-rays. Then I went back to the first TMC with the x- rays. The PA said I have bursitis in my right hip, tendonitis in both knees and shin splints in my lower tibias near my feet. He gave me an anti-inflammatory and told me to do no running or jumping for 7 days. That shouldn't affect training but I can't run for PT test #3 nor can I practice run. If I fail the last PT test it will be because of my knees. The PA told me this is happening because of my age as well as no major physical activity before Basic. He also told me it will just get worse over time. Oh well, what can you do - right? We got our haircut today so that's good. We had to stand at attention for 2 hours in the fun waiting - not fun. Also, my hair must be thinning. DS Johnson said I have a landing strip and another Sgt. at the clinic told me it looks like I have the mange. The DS's sure can exploit the littlest thing. Great! Well I will just keep it shaved and that will be that. I think people are really getting tired of being here. The end is close but I have some major hurdles ahead of me - none are fun or easy. I am just not a super soldier I guess. I just found out that this Puerto Rican guy in the platoon is from Bayamon. That's near where you are from, right? Mail call is soon and I hope I get something! It always makes my day. Wentworth continues to be bummed at his comparative lack of mail and that he hasn't spoken to his wife or kids in 6 weeks. I feel bad for him. The platoon continues to suck ass and we get smoked all the time because these kids are idiots. 3.5 more weeks is what I tell myself...3.5 more weeks. Well, nothing else to report.


We just had mail call and I got 2 letters from you! I am glad you asked Sgt. Gill about the PT test. With my knee problems, I am worried about passing the last 2 PT tests. Please let him know that. I just want to do what I need to so I can move on with my career. Basic is a lot of B.S. and not enough real training. We spend hours standing around, sitting around, etc. That time could be used to teach, practice, etc. Expect maybe one more phone call before I see you. Expect a long phone call if our platoon wins shooting - but don't count on it...3rd platoon is much better than us. I can't wait to show you the yearbook and video! I hope that my thumbs up to the photographer outside the gas chamber made it in. If it did, it was worth going back through. There is a bad staph infection spreading around. Only one guy in the platoon has it so we are all being cautious. Apparently, you can get it during Field Training...along with such fun things as ant bites, bee stings, chiggers, poison ivy, poison oak, spider bites, snake bites and heat rash...ooooh fun! So tomorrow we pre-qualify on shooting again. I am going to try some other things to correct whatever I am doing wrong.

Keep your fingers crossed! Well time to shower, etc. I want to get a good night sleep.


September 10, 2003 

It's 4am again. As usual I am pretty blue this morning. I had guard from 1-2am so that sucked. We are shooting today and I am nervous. I am pretty tired and wish I were home with you in bed. Hopefully I will cheer up. Usually I do in a couple hours. No running for me because of my knees. The DS's will probably yell at me, call me faker and threaten to restart me from day one and an assortment of other fun things. My cough (although still around) is better. My throat is pretty much sore 24/7. I am glad I don't have to worry about PT tests 3 and 4. I just don't know how my knees will hold up. They tell us all the time that PT test 1-3 don't matter and only #4 counts. I hope Sgt. Gill is correct by saying you only need to pass any 1 PT test - and that the DS's don't tell you that. Since he is a Drill himself, I guess he knows! I figure people wouldn't try if they knew that. I am also very nervous about this 5 mile company run. No way can I finish it so I hope it's not required for graduation. The DS's make you think everything is required so you don't know what to believe. They threaten to start you from Day One again if you don't do or fail anything. I tell you now I will REFUSE to restart and come home before I go back to day one! If I were 18, this may have been easier but I am old and out of running shape. Sitting at a desk for 12 years really did me a disservice, you know?


September 11, 2003 9/11

It's been 2 years. Can you believe it? I wish we were back in Italy. Yesterday we went to a range called Malone 14 (for Sgt. Gill). It was for more pre-qualifying on shooting. Again you need 23/40 to pass. I shot 21/40, 18/40 and 24/40. So I passed the 3rd time. Now, today is the day that counts. The DS's make all kinds of threats about sending you home, restarting you, etc if you fail. They also say if you are shooting 16+ you will qualify. I have faith that I will pass today. If our platoon shoots the best, you will know before you get this letter since I will get a phone call to you this weekend. If you didn't hear from me, that means we didn't win. I am just looking at my 24/40 score as my motivation. I am also working hard not to be anxious or worried. Some people seem to be naturals and shoot 25+ easy. So I am saying a prayer and keeping your picture in my pocket. I am going now to get dressed. I'll let you know how it goes.


Well I did it!! I qualified - first attempt 26/40. The 1st Lt. (CO) pinned my marksmen badge on my uniform and it felt great! This was a MAJOR hurdle. Today starts week 6. Also our platoon won shooting, so I get a 10 minute phone call. We had the highest qualification percentage of all non-infantry companies and the highest at Benning since 2000! Go figure! But our Drills are so excited and happy; we are like free men today. I hope you are at your phone. By the time you get this, we will know whether we spoke or not. Today was a proud day for me. I will write after we hopefully talk.


September 12, 2003 

Well I spoke to you last night! I am so happy. That one little thing makes my week. I love when we win those 10 minute phone calls. There are more competitions ahead so please continue to keep that phone with you. So since shooting qualifications are finally over, they say BCT will speed up. I hope so! Next Sunday I may get another 10 minute call so keep that phone charged. I think we are shooting again today while wearing gas masks. At least it should become a bit more fun now. I told you the 1st Lt. pinned the marksmen badge on me. It felt great. Since I qualified right away, I spent the whole day lounging in the shade. I am sure the DS's will tighten screws today to remind us where we are, but by week 6, you sorta go yeah, yeah. Oh! So after I shot, DS Ahdunko walks up to me on the range and says "How'd you shoot Weston?" I said "I counted 26 Drill Sergeant." And he gave his much revered one compliment "Out - mother fucking - standing Private!" We love when we do something and he says that. Of course I told DS Hunter told me to fuck off and die. Nice guy. One and a half weeks until he is gone! WOO! Well, time to get cracking.


Today we went back to a rifle range. First we shot 3 magazines, each with 6 rounds in it. Normally we shoot on semi which is 1 round per trigger squeeze. Today we shot on burst which fires 3 rounds with a trigger squeeze. Then we had to shoot 20 targets (10 from a foxhole, 10 from prone-lying down) with our gas masks on. That was interesting. The required standard was to hit 11/20. I hit 14/20 then had a double feed and a jam, so I just said screw it and chilled for a few. The M16's we shoot with are crazy old and jam a lot. The "real" soldiers shoot with the M4 which is a smaller, lighter more accurate M16. Then I got in trouble. After my jam, I cleared the chamber - or so I thought. My mask was fogged up and I couldn’t see. So during the dry fire you pull the trigger to make sure your weapon isn't loaded and my rifle popped off a shot. DOH! DS Alomar cracked me across the helmet with a clipboard and called me a fucking piece of shit. I said "yes Drill Sergeant" and quickly disappeared before he got my name. If they get your name, expect a lot of extra duty, smokings, guard or whatever. I was lucky. Unfortunately I was chatting (again) during chow and DS Rickerson took my name (again). He will hunt me down for extra duty this weekend I am sure. I blab too much. I have gained 12lbs of muscle. Now I have a balance between calories in/calories out and I am not gaining or losing. If there is something big going on the next day, I'll eat more. My hydration levels are down and I need to drink more water. I have been slacking. You can tell by your pee. It has to be clear white. If it's yellow you are under hydrated. The more yellow, the worse you are and can pass out or something worse. I am not that bad but I need to drink more. Wentworth is doing much better these days. The drills seem to be getting tired of being here. More and more they leave in the early evening. The overnight drill hangs around of course and DS Johnson lives here so his ass is always around. He'll show up tonight, guaranteed, and sit and shoot the shit. My knees continue to hurt and my hips are really giving me problems now. I do have a funky tan. My hands and above my wrists are tan from the rolled up BDU sleeves. My face is tan too. I ate a lot tonight but I am still hungry. I wish we could have snacks in our lockers. Apparently at AIT I can get whatever I want, whenever...yeah! OK, more nicknames in the platoon. The guy from Atlanta is "ATL" (go figure). And the guy from Chicago is "Shy-town." The guy named Robe (Ro-bay) is "Robe-wan Kenobi." We are idiots. Well I have to polish boots, go for a walk, shower and hit the sack.


September 13, 2003 

It's 5am on Saturday. We get to sleep to 5 on Saturdays and 5:30 on Sunday. So that's good. We have PT this morning but not Sunday. On Monday we are getting our Class A's (dress uniforms) so that will take all day I think. Tuesday starts crazy being a soldier in the field training or something like that shit. We have 25 days left. The 2 letters I got from you made me feel great. I hope you are getting mine as well. Tomorrow I will go to church again. I find it interesting and a nice mind break from BCT. The topic doesn't matter so long as you can escape ARMY related subjects! Not much else going on really so I will write more tonight.


So we did some PT this morning - rope climb, pull-ups, etc. Not too bad. Then the overnight (CQ) drill made us disassemble all 60 bunks and bring them down 3 flights of stairs (mattresses too) and reassemble them just like the barracks outside. Then we mopped the bay and brought everything back up. Fun (not). Then DS Rickerson (who took my name last week for talking) found me and I had to pick up trash around the area. No biggie. I lucked out! He could have made me dig ditches or something worse. I am going to arrange my wall locker after I write you and Grandpa Larry. He sends me a lot of mail and that helps.



September 14, 2003 It's 5am on another Sunday. Nothing happens today but church and cleaning (again). We are having a pizza party today because of our high BRM scores. The 1st Sgt. authorized it. I am getting a large pizza and a Gatorade. I am fairly certain a certain drill (Hunter) will clobber us tomorrow because of it, but OH FUCKING WELL! Also I gave a guy $2 last night and he managed to get me 2 Starbursts and a Reece's Peanut Butter Cup. You gotta be careful with that stuff or your ass will be in a sling! They said they are getting more stuff today but I declined. Once is enough for me - you know how safe I am. Anywho, I'll write more when I'm bored.


Well I went to Mormon Church again. Its 3 hours so it's a nice mental break. Now lest you think I am becoming a Mormon, I'm not. But the Mormons have little weekly classes. They don't seem to push the Book of Mormon much. The Mormon services are in the Rec. Center. There are phones in there. Some dishonest soldiers go and use them every week (no one knows you do it). I really want to talk to you but I find it dishonest and wrong to use those phones. I hope you understand that (I know you do). Next Sunday I might get to call you so keep the phone close! I continue to be concerned about being able to get out of Basic because of my inability to run. I just don't know who to ask about this. Also I have a PT test the first week of AIT. The ARMY and PT. What a mix! Oh! Guess what! I will be home for Thanksgiving! Oops - OK Wentworth just told me I can't fly to you, but you can fly to me and spend 4 days off post together. I will find out more soon so you can get airfare. I will be with you for 2 weeks at Christmas so that's awesome! If I can't proceed in Basic due to my knees, I will leave Basic and move to NJ. I will continue to probe. Next week we are getting our dress uniforms issued and beginning grenade training and field stuff. Hopefully the days will fly. Don't mail me any letters the last week of September because I will be doing FTX and living in the woods. WAIT! OK go ahead and send mail. I will get it when I get back. I'd stop sending mail on say October 5th. Tell other people as well. Once I get to AIT, expect another delay in contacting you until I get a new address and phone time. I may have phone time right away. If not, it will come within a week or two. So we had our pizza party! Each person had a large pizza and a 32oz Gatorade. We felt like free men for a spell. I am sure the drills will find a way to get even and take back the calories. We are all STUFFED! It was great fun. Other than that, nothing to report so I will sign out for the night.


September 15, 2003 

It's 4:20am. I woke up early and now I have an hour to just sit around. In 10 minutes everyone will be up and these 20 minutes of quiet and peace I have had will be over. Some people felt sick after the pizza. Thankfully I did not. Last night me and Wentworth sat and talked about our wives and how much we miss you.


1:15pm and I have lots to tell you! First let me congratulate you on your job. I got some info about Ft. Sam Houston. From what I gather, housing is full so they

are putting new people in off post apartments - 2BR/1BA furnished for $775 a month. If this is confirmed, you can move to San Antonio and we'll have a place. It's still new and unconfirmed info so I will keep you up to date. Today we went and got fitted for our dress greens! They look very cool and I got shiny shoes and cool PT stuff as well. Now where the hell to put it all?? I got 3 letters from you today and I am very happy. Your letters continue to inspire and motivate me. My knees are no better, so my confusion about the future still persists. I will try and hopefully not fail. But if I do, it will be from pain (not hurt) and I will have tried my best. Well I have to try to unpack all my new stuff. Oh and try to stop yet another fight in the barracks.


It's 7pm. We unpacked all our new stuff but are short hangers, so stuff is hanging wild. I have to dig up new hangers someplace. I am on a running profile which means I cannot run so I am not taking PT test #3. Not much I can do about it. I don't know if I told you but the ARMY issued me 2 pair of sweatpants and 2 pair of sweatshirts - SUPER SOFT and comfy. You can have them since they also issued me the IPFU (cool jacket and pants). The ARMY makes no sense at times. Ok, seriously nothing to report.


September 16, 2003 Its 4:10am and morning blues are here. I don't know what it is about the morning. When I get out of Basic, I am sure this will pass. Maybe I am just so nerved up about passing. Sometimes its nerves due to what we might do in a day. Sometimes it's just missing you. The PT test is at 5:30am which I am not doing, of course. Then we begin tactical training. I guess that's camo on the face and learning how to dig foxholes, setup positions and the dreaded low crawl. That's where you are flat on your stomach (head too) and you snake along the ground. We will do that while they fire live ammo at us and at night. Don't worry, the live ammo is about 8 feet over our heads so no danger. As usual I am nervous. I am like the most overanxious person here, I swear! I worry about everything! But you know that about me already. I wish I didn't though. Well you know the drill - gonna finish getting ready.


Phew what a day! We had the PT test this morning. I couldn't run but I did the sit-ups and pushups. I went from 38 pushups to 44 and 48 sit-ups to 51, so I improved a bit. Then we marched about 1/4 mile to a field where we started Initial Tactical Training. High crawls, low crawls, 3-5 sec buddy team movement, squad movement, simulated artillery, etc. We are BEAT! My knees and elbows are bruised. My lower back hurts too. Some guys have no skin on their elbows and knees. Tomorrow we are doing the rifle bayonet course and get to stab stuff. Now stuff is getting hectic. We are soldiering finally. With that comes lots of hurt. Thursday is grenades. BOOM! Friday we are going to the night infiltration course and sleeping in the tents. We have to high crawl 200 meters at night while they are shooting LIVE bullets at us from machine guns and blow things up with artillery and grenades. Crazy huh? This stuff went from smokings and working out to putting paint on our faces and charging enemy positions while shooting at crap. Shower time!


September 17, 2003 

It's another 4:15am morning at BCT. I am pretty sore from yesterday but not as bad as I thought I'd be. I looked at the schedule for the remaining time and our training ends October 1. October 2-7 is recovery time and of course you know about October 8th and 9th. We have a lot of field training which means major dirty-times ahead. This includes night fire, grenade tossing, more crawling in dirt and weeds and bugs, and hand to hand combat. We also have the final PT test on 9/27 and our Cycle End Testing (first aid, equip., etc). Sept 28 is the 10 mile march and 28, 29, 30 is the FTX. FTX is living in the woods, conducting nerve gas drills, tactical maneuvering, digging foxholes, ambushes, etc. It's a very intense time. So time will move quickly but the days are going to be VERY long and hot and busy. Major concerns: final PT test run is my #1 problem. 10 mile march should be do-able with pain killers. 5 mile company run (if we do this) will be a near impossibility for me. So instead of concentrating on my tasks, I worry. And of course the drills just continue to yell, scream and threaten (only until 5pm though lol). My running continues to suffer. I wish I didn't worry about these things like other people. Sometimes being me sucks. You are my guide though this craziness and coming back to you is the only thing I have at this point. I say that a lot but it's true. Well time to finish getting ready.


Monday, September 29, 2003 

Hey all! Its Brian here and I’m home. I was at the end of the 8th week of BCT when the doctors diagnosed me with stress fractures in both tibias, damaged tendons in my knees and bursitis in both hips. I had gone to sick call again because I had shooting pains in my shins and knees and I was having trouble walking up stairs and couldn't run. Since the last letter (9/17), I had completed the ITT training (tactical), bivouacking, a 7 mile road march, night infiltration course, grenades and all live fire exercises. All I had left was just the 10 mile road march to FTX and then I was done. Unfortunately, the CO took the doctor's recommendation and sent me home on 30 days convalescent leave. This means I will not graduate with my platoon and when I return to Ft. Benning and I could end up going back as far as Week 3. Not fun! Most of the problems that I had during BCT (especially running problems) were due to leg injuries I was unaware that I had. I would do the 3 or 4 mile company runs, fall out and kick myself for failing when in reality I had a physical problem. It's great to be home on "vacation" but I am not looking forward to returning. I have definitely lost steam. While I am home, I will be swimming, biking and lifting weights to stay in shape. My major concern is that the fractures don't heal in 30 days and that I will get re-injured again. So many unknowns. Stay tuned! ~Brian


Tuesday, October 07, 2003 

So the latest update is....not much really. I have been going to the gym and taking spinning classes to try and stay in some sort of shape; however my knees and hips are still hurting a lot. I am going to visit a civilian doctor and get another diagnosis as well. I am fairly certain that the military will want to medically discharge me since I do not think I can run (or road march). But honestly, I have no clue. They could try to ELS me which am usually reserved for people who dont want to train. It's all up to the CO and potentially what is easier for him. So things are still up in the air. Stay tuned for more of the saga. ~Brian


Thursday, October 23, 2003 

Well the time has arrived. I am leaving at 6am tomorrow. Unfortunately, its 30 days later and I am no better off than when I got home. Nothing has healed. My shins are very painful as are my knees and hips. Walking is slow and painful and running is nearly impossible. My civilian doctor said that the damage to my knees, coupled with the severe bursitis in my hips would heal, but at my age probably not for a year. As a doctor and my friend, I trust him. When I return, I will tell the CO that I want to complete Basic but I am physically unable to

do so and try to figure out my options. I do not want to sit around in a medical hold for weeks or months waiting to see if I heal. It is likely that they will put me back in week 3. Considering I just did 8 weeks of Basic and I do not want to redo 5 weeks of training AFTER 6-8 weeks of rehab. I am guessing they will just discharge me at this point, either medically or general. It was not supposed to happen this way but my body just gave out on me. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about returning to the unknown; my friends are long gone and I am alone on this. Information is scare. Everyone keep your fingers crossed and hope for the best! Once I get a new mailing address, Lisa will get it out to everyone again (just like before). Meanwhile keep checking on this site for updates. It was a great 30 days and I am trying to stay in good spirits - but it's not easy. ~Brian


CONCLUSION – November 12, 2003 

It ended up taking 16 days and a LOT of yelling and screaming at me by Drill Sergeants and various officers to get the discharge. I opted out of the medical discharge route because it could take months to receive. During such time, you are the Drill Sergeants bitches, doing such glorious things as raking, painting, digging, moving stuff and mowing lawns. If you aren't doing those things, you are stuck in the barracks left to rot. I met NUMEROUS guys in this position and they were beyond miserable. Not fun. So I made a corporate decision to do what I felt was best for me and I refused to restart after the CO demanded I go back to week 4. The 1st Sgt. was actually nice and understanding. He did ask the CO why I had to go so far back and could not just jump in at week 7 or 8. He did not get a clear answer apparently. He said he would discharge me given the circumstances but he wasn’t happy about it and thought I was making a mistake. He also said because I am "older and not a punk 18 year old who is just quitting" he would push it through. 1St Sgt. also knew that I passed everything required with a string of injuries, including the AFPT, and that I hung in until the bitter end. I won’t forget him.


The Drills on the other hand were out of control. Mostly, I was stuck in the company day room since Alpha Co. was between cycles. Usually I could hide all day, but if a Drill saw me walking around or came into the day room, it was on! At one point, I had to guard a water fountain at parade rest for 12 straight hours. Need I say more?


SUMMARY 

An Entry Level Separation (ELS) is an uncharacterized discharge. It is neither honorable nor dishonorable. You cannot "request" it. It is command initiated for: refusing to train, failure to adapt, people with too many Article 15's and so on. It's not a fun experience and not recommended. If you do find yourself facing an ELS discharge in Basic, you WILL NOT LEAVE until the cycle is over. People I saw with pending ELS's experience the most miserable time imaginable as you are endlessly berated, picked on and left to rot in a chair. You will sit in that chair hour after hour, day after day, week after week and in many cases month after month. And remember this: time in Basic moves much slower than real time. So 2 hours seems like 2 days. While awaiting an ELS discharge, you cannot write, read or talk to anyone. If you are lucky, you may get to mow, mop or dig ditches. It sucks worse than anything in Basic!


THE QUICKEST AND EASIEST WAY OUT OF BASIC IS TO FINISH! 

When I was told to return all the way back to week 4, my options at that point were to: a) restart, risk continued injury, rehab yet again and possibly restart for a 2nd time or b) refuse to restart and get an ELS (since my injuries were not prior). It could have taken longer, a LOT longer, but the 1st Sgt. wanted me gone before the next cycle started in a few days. He did not give me an Article 15. What an unfortunate end to a wild experience. Finally I am home and working to rebuild my life. I will keep everyone up to date as things unfold. Peace! ~Brian


PART II - FT. BENNING TAUGHT ME THAT... 

  •     Some Drill Sergeants can be evil motherfuckers! 
  •     Combat boots make your toes go numb 
  •     BDU's are really comfortable and pretty sturdy 
  •     Drill Sergeants will find your weakness and exploit it 
  •     Guarding a water fountain is important for National Security 
  •     I am not becoming a Mormon 
  •     You can learn to write in the dark 
  •     Physical Training at 0430 sucks! 
  •     ANYTHING at 0430 sucks!
  •     Spit shining boots in Basic is dumb since you will get smoked as soon as

you get into formation thereby ruining all your hard work 

  •     I will NEVER pay $25 for someone to take my fireguard shift 
  •     The Army LOVES starchy foods 
  •     It IS possible to have bronchitis for 6 consecutive weeks
  •     Doing extra duty is NOT an escape 
  •     I can march really well!
  •     E-mail can NEVER replace the thrill of receiving snail mail 
  •     I look pretty good in uniform 
  •     "Airborne Rangers lead the way..." 
  •     Drill Sergeants make an indelible impression on you...and I will NEVER

forget them! 

•    If I were under attack by 40 Iraqi's, I would have killed 26 of them. (by

Army standards that is good enough...hmmmm....) 

  •     "Blood makes the green grass grow" 
  •     I now appreciate the freedom of CHOICE 
  •     I WILL eat chow even if I am sitting on a red ant hill (ouch!)
  •     Gas masks DO work! 
  •     The gas chamber is completely horrific 
  •     You don't EVER touch a Drill's smokey hat, even if he ordered you to do so 
  •     I look damn fine with the "POW haircut" 
  •     Your battle buddy is someone you will never ever forget 
  •     Brent Ward is my hero 
  •     Much to my surprise, Lieutenants and Captains CAN yell as loud as Drills! 
  •     (they can also be equally mean) 
  •     Saying HOOAH all the time can get REALLY annoying

•    If you "ranger roll" your BDU cap after the Drill's have explicitly told you not to, nothing bad will happen to you...no really!

  •     You don't want to forget to say "At Ease" when required 
  •     "Pro'ally...you will die" -DS Alomar 
  •     You don't ever want to challenge a Drill Sergeant to a pushup contest 
  •     Sleeping in sweats and knit cap will help you not get sick 
  •     Lysoling and Fabreezing qualifies as doing laundry 
  •     Hand sanitizer qualifies as showering 
  •     People cannot do something as simple as LOCK YOUR GODDAMN FOOTLOCKER!!!

HOW FUCKING HARD IS THAT?? 

  •     Drinking 10 canteens of water per day is hard and it sucks


PART III - WHAT TO PACK 

This packing list is just my opinion based on what I brought and what I saw necessary: 

  1. schoolbook sized backpack 
  2. toothbrush 
  3. toothpaste
  4. unscented anti-perspirant stick 
  5. bar of soap in a plastic case (something thick like Ivory, not Lever 2000) 
  6. pack of disposable razors 
  7. bottle shaving cream (edge gel is a good choice) 
  8. combo lock (you really dont need 2 but you can bring an extra if you want) 
  9. small travel combo lock to lock your civvies bag zippers) 
  10. small black kiwi shoeshine kit (all you need is the applicator brush, the polish brush and the polish) 
  11. big extra can of black kiwi polish 
  12. nail clipper 
  13. packs of Dr Scholl's moleskin (pre cut these into 1 inch and 1/2 inch pieces (some squares, some rectangles) 
  14. small ziplock bag with various size bandaids. Get one of those variety boxes and dump it into a ziplock. A few small ziplock bags 
  15. bible if you read it 
  16. small notebooks 
  17. cheap bag of pens 
  18. box of 40 or so small, pre stamped envelopes 
  19. small address book 
  20. change of clothes (no shoes other than what you wear down) 
  21. extra pair of underwear and socks. 
  22. pair of cheap, lightweight flipflops 
  23. small bottle of Gold Bond footpowder 
  24. small bottle of Johnson's babypower (to put down your shirt, in your underwear, etc) 
  25. 4pk of little travel size hand sanitizer bottles (no aloe, non scented) 

(1) pack of unscented babywipes


PART IV - TIPS TO SURVIVING BASIC 

Do what you are told, when you are told to do it. Some things will seem

trivial and stupid, but do them anyway. Bitch about it later with your

buddies in the barracks 

Popular to contrary belief, volunteering is OK if you don’t mind doing

laborious type of work. You may load gear, fill ice chests, carry water jugs, and dig ditches. Lest you think volunteering will somehow merit you brownie points and favor with the Drills, it will not. In certain cases, you may be spared some "extracurricular PT." In other cases, you may miss cool events such as the obstacle course ...its just hit or miss. 

Do not let the Drills learn your name in the first 3 days. Keep your head

down and exercise hard (or at least give the appearance of doing so). If they do learn your name in the first 3 days, they will seek you out all through the cycle. I managed to avoid the Drills knowing me early on and I didn't get noticed until the 4th or 5th week (some Drills NEVER knew me).

If wake up is at 0400, get up at 0340 (have the fireguard wake you). This way you can shave, use the facilities and brush your teeth in relative peace. I'd also make my bunk, get dressed and then sit in the corner and sleep while everyone else scrambled around.

PT's can be washed in the latrine sink at night. They are designed to dry quickly, so you can hang them up and by morning, they will be good to go.

For God's sake don't walk around in the latrine or showers without flip flips! I saw so many guys do this and get athlete's foot. That's just nasty, people.

If you are really sick or hurt, GO TO SICK CALL but don't just go for a sore throat or if your muscles hurt. Good things to go for: infected blisters, bronchitis, high fever, pink eye, serious joint pain, bad shin splints, and any type of bad open wound (from rope burns, etc). Mostly, you will just have to tough things out but LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! I didn't and you read what happened to me.

  • LOCK YOUR WALL LOCKER!!! I can't reiterate this enough. 

Sleep in your issued sweats and black knit cap. It's considered a proper

uniform, so it's OK. For some unknown reason, it helps with preventing

and/or getting over the "crud."

 • Don't get hurt in reception or your stay there will be long, boring and

horrible. We had a guy who ran around the barracks like an idiot, slipped and busted his head. He had to stay at reception for 2 more weeks before getting medical clearance to move on to BCT. I met morons who were in medical holdovers for weeks and even months! Just be smart.

If you are going to get into a fight with someone, that's OK...just don't leave marks. We would let people fight until someone was choked out before we broke it up. Fights WILL happen.

Drill Sergeants will investigate all photos you get in the mail. Since I didn't want to hear their crap, I had my wife take pictures with a Polaroid iZone and she would stick the little pictures right to the top of the letter. The Drills never knew because when they bent the envelope to feel for photos, they didn’t feel anything. Cool huh.

Don't preset your combo lock to make it quick to open; some Drills will walk around and spin locks. If they manage to open yours ...well... you just don't want that to happen. You REALLY don't want that to happen.

Don't be a turd and to pay someone to take your fireguard shift. Just get up and do it like everyone else. Paying for laundry duty...fine. Paying for boot polishing...eh. If you want to waste your hard earned money paying people to do those things, well that's your business (but I think it's stupid).

  • Use hand sanitizer...often. 

Take as much food as your can during chow, especially during dinner. You

eat around 1800. By 2000 you will be hungry again...so...eat a lot! I ate

things I didn't even like just so I wouldn't be hungry.

Just remember there are 50-60 other people in your platoon. Before you go act like a raving moron, think about how your actions affect others.

Getting smoked over and over because the same person cannot do something

simple like lock their locker is aggravating and irritating. 

For road marches...if you want to save your inner thighs from chaffing,

instead of wearing your cotton underwear, wear your PT shorts instead. It works!! But don't get caught.


PART V - RECEPTION: DOES IT REALLY SUCK? 

The simple answer is no it doesn't suck as bad as you may have heard. I say this with one small caveat...do NOT stay longer than you have to.


TIP: Don't get hurt or fail the PT test or your stay will be longer and more dreadful than it has to be. Sure reception boring, but you meet some cool people as well as give yourself a chance to "let it all sink in."


Reception is simply processing and introduction. Yes there are Drill Sergeants and yes they will seem somewhat nasty to the new recruit, but their job is mainly to get you ready to "ship downrange" (or move out to your Basic training battalion). They are not representative of what's to come. Prepare yourself for this fact. So what happens at reception? Once you arrive, you will be assigned to barracks. The first night you may not sleep more than a couple of hours (if you are lucky). It just depends on when you arrive. You will also be issued a canteen and your IET handbook and you are responsible for keeping these with you at all times. You will receive a $250 advance (on a smartcard), your (2) PT uniforms and running shoes. This will become your uniform during your stay at reception.


TIP: You must purchase the running shoes (with the smartcard) but are later reimbursed on your first paycheck. Don't bother going out to buy expensive shoes before you leave.

After morning formation and chow, you will spend most of your time in-

processing. filling out financials,

Some days you are getting your gear (or issue). Other days you are forms, getting your military ID and setting up your insurance, banking and related. TIP: Bring a voided check from your bank account with you to set up direct deposit (you are REQUIRED to have direct deposit). If you do not have a voided check or the direct deposit form from your recruiter, the Army will make you use the crappy bank they work with.


TIP: Make sure you take all your personal information with you. Bring your shipping papers and orders, student loan information, mailing address, emergency contact information, etc. Married people should bring their spouse's SSN as well.


$$$ BONUS: A small loophole in the system allows you to make more money if you are married. Married people receive BAH or Basic Allowance for Housing. The idea is to help defer the costs of your mortgage or rent, especially while you are gone. It is tax free and based on the market rates of your HOME ADDRESS on record (not where you enlisted). So let's say your BAH allowance is $750 for the area your home address where your spouse currently lives. Let's also say that the BAH allowance is $1050 for the area where your parent's live. If you can, temporarily move your spouse in with your parents. Now you are not paying rent AND you receive an extra $300 a month, tax free! The Army will ask for your spouse's home address at reception. They do not care WHERE the address is located. Remember this.


After formation, breakfast chow, processing, lunch chow and more processing, the day is generally yours. You will have time to write letters, chat with your pals and so on. You will form up for dinner chow then have more time to sit around and do nothing. Later, you will have final formation and even MORE time to sit around. 


NOTE: Even though you are not allowed to do any PT in reception, make sure you continue to do pushups and sit-ups, when the Drills are not around, to stay in shape. There is no opportunity to run so don't bother.


TIP: Do not eat the short-order meals. They are basically burgers and fries. Start now weaning yourself off the grease and garbage. You will not have it in Basic and it just contributes to being fat and lazy in reception. You CAN go 10 weeks with out a cheeseburger. You will not die ...I promise.


PHONES: You are pretty good about allowing phone calls and usually you will have an opportunity to make a 10 minute phone call or two. Let's talk about shots. Shots are of great concern to 90% of the people (myself included). There are nine shots in all. Four in each arm, one in the ass plus a blood draw. You line up and step forward. Each unsympathetic medic sticks you with 1 or 2 small needles in each arm, until you have received all eight. They are not painful and it moves quickly. Before shot day, you will hear a LOT about the "ass shot." Yes it’s a big needle. Yes it feels like peanut butter when they inject you. Yes it hurts. No it does not hurt THAT bad. Cringe, take it and rub the spot after to relax the muscle. It will be sore (like a sore muscle) for a day or two.


TIP: If you feel dizzy during the shots, simply lie down on the padded floor. Don't be a hero and then pass out later. It is anticipated that people will feel dizzy and no one will bother you for it. You are getting hit with a lot of drugs at once and sometimes your body just gets overwhelmed.


That's it! That's all reception is. It's not worth getting into great detail about. It is uneventful but a necessary evil.


PART VI - WHAT IS IT LIKE WHEN I GET OFF THE BUS? 

Ah yes, getting off the bus. I am sure you have heard a lot about this "event." Even the toughest wince when they get off the bus, so don't let other people fool you...EVERYONE is nervous. This is a time honored tradition and I would be doing you a great disservice if I "ruined" this occasion for you. Suffice to say nothing in civilian life can prepare you for the fun; however with this in mind remember...it will pass. It happens once in very few people's lives, so enjoy the experience (postmortem of course)


PART VII - 4th PLATOON'S HIGH POINTS 

My platoon beat platoons 1, 2 and 3 in pugil stick fighting. We never lost

a match. How'd we do it? We had 6 guys over 30 who fought with great

maturity. 

My platoon had the fastest Obstacle Course time for all BCT brigades.

How'd we do it? Fear. The DS dropped some hints about what might happen if

we didn’t win. 

My platoon had the fastest live-fire high crawl time all BCT brigades.

How'd we do it? We were bribed with ice cream. 

  • My platoon had the highest BRM score (1st round qualifiers at 85%) for all

BCT brigades since 1999. How'd we do it? Our DS brought in a Delta Force

guy and a sniper instructor before we shot. No one else had these luxuries

and it showed.

My platoon had the most expert qualifiers for BCT brigades. How'd we do it? See above

will be allowed to call home after 24 hours or so. Reception Drills


UPDATE – ONE YEAR LATER November, 2004 

One year has passed since I got home for good. I cannot believe how fast it’s gone by! Anyhow, I am back working in my old career, continuing work on my photography and working on my MBA. To date, I have received over 1300 requests for this journal from people thinking about enlisting, people in DEP, Officers, enlisted soldiers and even Drill Sergeants. The response was been all positive (except for 2 people who criticized me for writing it in the first place). I have continued (and will continue) to provide advice based on my experiences to hopefully help new soldiers headed to Basic from encountering the injuries and mental problems I dealt with. I think I owe the Army at least that!

Regards.


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