Kilroy Joins the Army – Part III – Basic Training (BCT)

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My friend and fellow Not Operator author, Kilroy, said he was joining the US Army last year. We realized that his experiences would make for an interesting read, especially when there are so few online writings about what it is like, emotionally and physically, to experience modern basic training and beyond. He agreed to keep a journal of his time, and that we would publish it to Not Operator.

Kilroy tends to write his personal journals with pretty purple prose, so with his permission, I’ll be editing and paraphrasing his journal a bit to make it an easier read, with the help of my other friend and fellow Not Operator author, Michael. I’ll also be adding comments of my own in bold brackets [like this] to provide some extra context when necessary. If there’s large enough demand for it, we will post the full, unedited, version of Kilroy’s journal. To avoid making Kilroy’s experiences one giant wall-o-text, the journal will be broken up into an ongoing series of articles where it makes sense to do so. Plus, with Kilroy still in the Army, the journal is far from complete.

All entries in the Kilroy Joins the Army Series can be found here.

Without further ado, welcome to Kilroy Joins the Army – Part III – Basic Training (BCT).

 

Day 7:

[It’s still Day 7, Kilroy shipped out around midday on Day 7 and arrived at BCT (Basic Combat Training) in the early afternoon].

As soon as we arrived, we were met with a shark attack. [The Drill Sergeants rush the new recruits and start yelling at them and issuing commands/orders. You can see a video of it here]. It was not as bad as it could have been, just some running and speeches that served to get us into position.

I was assigned a leadership role for the platoon as bay boss – in charge of getting everyone together and in order, as well as assigning various tasks to members of my platoon. Sadly, I was set up to fail, as we were told ‘lights out’ as soon as I was given the assignment. Many of the men were unable to make their beds – since no one can see in this darkness.

Fortunately, I was assigned an assistant; another Specialist like me. He has a bachelor’s degree in math and a master’s degree in finance math. I find it odd that he chose to join up, but to each their own I suppose. He seems to have realized the same thing I did, and has simply given up on the whole affair, opting to sleep since we can’t finish our tasks for the night.

I’ve decided to go ahead and try and get the assignments done anyways, since I don’t want to incur the wrath of our Drill Sergeants. I envy his sleep though. In the past week I have not been able to sleep more than 6 hours at any given time – the average has been 4 hours, and I think we can all feel what it is doing to us.

My sense of regret flared up again today, wondering exactly what it was that made me sign up for this. I still have that nagging feeling that I should just quit, go home, and write. I miss the comforts of home and life in the 21st century. I also desperately need clean clothing. We’ve been cycling through the same dirty uniforms and underwear for the past week, and there’s been no sign we’ll be given the opportunity to do laundry anytime soon – I see why other accounts of BCT made such a huge deal about clean clothes.

Day 8:

I don’t remember what it feels like to be well-rested. There’s never enough time, and the completely arbitrary nature of the duties and tasks they assign us wears heavily on the group’s morale. As the day progresses, I’ve started to fall asleep on my feet.

Thankfully, the particular Drill Sergeant who leads us now is a bit calmer than those assigned to other platoons. At least today we’re getting some classroom instruction, so that we have something moderately worthwhile to do most of the time.

My experience in the Army so far seems to be particularly miserable. Meals have changed from occurring in a chaotic and aggressively overbearing environment, into a more prisonlike environment. They have specific rules about how we are meant to hold the trays, how we need to walk to acquire food, how many drinks we can have, how we drink our drinks, and have even limited the time we get to eat down to next to nothing. [The Army requires the Drill Sergeants to allow the recruits a minimum of 10 minutes to eat, so of course the Drill Sergeants don’t allow them more than 10 minutes]. It occurs to me that I haven’t enjoyed a meal since I left home.

Earlier this afternoon, I was hanging out in the bay, and someone walked out to tell us that one of our fellow recruits (I’ll call him X) had just fallen down in the shower. I was shocked, considering everyone here signed up for the Army, which relies almost exclusively on reflexive action, that no one had already tried to help him.

I yelled at someone to call a Drill Sergeant immediately, and then ran into the showers. I found X there, holding his head and wearing nothing but a towel. One of the other recruits was crowding around him but not really doing anything, so I told him to clear out.

I got X to lie down to make his spine level and get it in line. I then did some basic first aid and started asking him questions to determine his mental state. Unfortunately. he was clearly concussed. X thought we were still in Reception, and couldn’t remember how many siblings he had.

One of the Drill Sergeants arrived soon after, asking me if I was an EMT. I said I wasn’t, but I knew some basic first aid, and that X had clearly sustained a concussion. The Drill Sergeant called the actual EMTs and they took him away almost immediately.

It’s sad to see someone go like that, especially this early on and not even related to our training. I hope he’s ok.

[Since Kilroy doesn’t address this later on in his journal, I figured I could cover it. Sadly, X sustained a pretty severe concussion and was chaptered out of the Army. Chaptering is another way of saying he’s ‘been let go’, but can occur for a variety of reasons such as illness, physical injury, getting in major trouble, or simply quitting, etc. As a result of the concussion, he also lost partial vision in one of his eyes. Last I heard from Kilroy, he was doing ok though].

Day 9:

They had us do the 1 -1 -1 test today. [The 1-1-1 test involves 1 minute of pushups, 1 minute of sit-ups, and a 1 mile run. You are required to complete a certain number (based on your age) of pushups and sit-ups within a minute, as well as required to run the mile under a certain time (also based on your age) in order to pass]. Thankfully, I was able to get enough sleep last night to keep me going and participating during the test.

The day has been filled with mostly classroom activities. They’ve covered the history of the Army as well as the sexual harassment and prejudice prevention programs. We were also given a brief from the chaplain.

Morale seems stable in the platoon as we learn more about marching and military manners. [Military manners refer to how to act around other soldiers, such as standing at attention when officers are present, or standing at parade rest when NCOs (non-commissioned officers) are present]. The military manners bother me since it’s mostly a huge inconvenience and you always have to be on the lookout for officers and NCOs.

The little annoyances build up, and hopefully won’t end up piling up enough to cause me to reach my breaking point. Others have promised that after today, we should be getting more rest at least. However, my body is really starting to adjust to the abbreviated sleep schedule to an extent. Sometimes, waves of extreme fatigue flow over me and the struggle to keep my eyes open is a war in and of itself. Other times I feel wide awake without any issue.

As has been occurring lately, I’m still having some feelings of regret and a desire to get back to writing. Also, all the motivational and supposedly inspirational speeches our Drill Instructor gives us does nothing to improve my morale or motivation, it’s just not in my personality.

I’m also concerned about improving physically. The way our exercise is structured allows for very limited improvement; the lack of recovery time is definitely a factor. I’m nervous about passing the running portion of the physical fitness testing as I’ve never been particularly quick in distance running.

The benefit of experiencing military training is to see what it’s really like – though the military culture and lifestyle is really draining. The rules are obviously different than in civilian life, and the option of leaving is gone. A regular job doesn’t take over your life the same way.

The life you live under UCMJ [Uniform Code of Military Justice] and the rules of random military customs makes it feel more like volunteering for prison than having a job. Then again – nobody said this would be fun. I feel like I’ve disabled parts of my personality to be here – I don’t enjoy anything and I don’t have anything to enjoy. I suppose that’s sort of the Army’s philosophy though – turn your brain off, Uncle Sam thinks for you.

Also, for some reason the Army appears to have a Hollywood budget for their PSA videos. [Kilroy was referring to this video which they showed them during their classroom time].

Day 10:

For some odd reason, all of the dreams I’ve had since passing through Reception have had end credit sequences. The latest dream ended while set on a theater stage with red curtains, while a marionette danced next to the card where credits were rolling.

I found out today that I failed the 1-1-1 test’s running portion. [Kilroy finished in 9 min 10 sec but based on his age was required to finish in 8 min 30 sec to pass]. I have to do better than ever to stay in this, or more accurately – I need to do better to prevent being recycled and restarted back to day zero, which is what happens if you fail.

Last night I lost more sleep than usual, since a couple of us were woken up for 2 hours in the middle of the night to clean a bathroom during CQ shift [Charge of Quarters]. I’ve transitioned to a state of micro-sleep in the day where I nod off for a brief moment of REM before snapping back awake again.

The Army’s classroom portions are done almost entirely as PowerPoint presentations – something that seems to be a symptom of trying to teach to the lowest common denominator, with a crowd comprised primarily of people just out of high school. Sadly, we’re only halfway through the day and I’m passing out.

Also, turns out the Army doesn’t just use Federal Prison Industries, Inc. as a contractor for their supplies. The contractor for miscellaneous items appears to be Skilcraft [National Industries for the Blind] – they make all our pens, clipboards, jackets, and other various things.

 

This ends Kilroy Joins the Army – Part III – Basic Training (BCT). next time we’ll pick up where we left off, as Kilroy continues with Army Basic Training. Stay tuned for Kilroy Joins the Army – Part IV – Basic Training (BCT).

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