Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XVIII – BCT 2

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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 XVIII – BCT 2.

 

Day 246

I’ve been dropped right back into it. I’m being assigned to Echo Company, in the care of 2nd platoon, as they complete their fourth week of BCT.

From what I’ve seen so far here, the level of harshness associated with daily life is nowhere near what it used to be back in Alpha Company.

My time in FTC is over, and now I can proceed onward. I went from being unable to walk without the assistance of crutches to being able to passably run. I will get better. This is the eventuality. I’ll learn and I’ll move on.

Moving into my new living quarters here was easy, but I’ve not yet been issued the training equipment I need – I’m waiting on a weapon, a ruck, a helmet, etc.

My new company is currently doing rifle marksmanship, condensed in such a way that my previous experience with night shooting has become obsolete here.

Day 247

We started the day off with a PT test. My scores are up past AIT standard and I’m sure by the final one I’ll be fine. It’s a turnaround from how I felt about all this before.

In the meanwhile, I’m still waiting to be assigned any equipment.

My leg has gotten better, but it’s not the same as it used to be.

After our test, we were given breakfast at the local DFAC. The food is the same, but the local companies seem to actually pull KP [Kitchen Patrol].

This company has a very different feel from Alpha. The time given to eat doesn’t seem to be that bad – that or my habit has adjusted to incorporate it.

After breakfast, we spent time in the brigade classroom, which is a huge upgrade from the setup of the 1-34th battalion. The day drags on though.

Day 248

Up early for the final shift of fireguard. For some reason I feel a little bit sick – nauseated in my stomach after a night of dreams I can’t remember. My sleep has been light in recent days and I pop awake without much prompting.

The Drill Sergeants told me I’d be going out to the range with the company and doing minor details while the rest shoot to qualify.

[Later in the day, Kilroy continues below].

I spent the majority of my time writing a 2,000 word essay that was assigned to the platoon shortly before my arrival.

After lunch we were taken out, formed up, and made to clean the company area. Once that was done, we practiced drill and ceremony as a company before dinner.

We’ve told we’ll be going to the LOMAH range tomorrow [Location of Miss and Hit. As it sounds it’s basically a range that detects whether or not the shooter hit or missed their target].

This company is running an obligatory laundry service so my pay is probably being docked without my consent. I feel no real loyalty to the company so far; my peers are in that young and rebellious phase of their lives. One of the few people I enjoy talking to is a national security advisor to a state senator.

Day 249

We headed out to the LOMAH range with the sky overcast and a warning of rain. Without my equipment, I just wait, told I would be assigned to random details. The weather has cooled down some; the overcast coolness making the experience more comfortable than my last time here.

I wish that I could have finished BCT with Alpha Company. I haven’t taken much of a shine to this latest group.

Later in the day, after returning from the range, we were given our phones for the rare opportunity to make a 10 minute phone call. This never would’ve happened back in Alpha. Oddly enough this all comes directly on the heels of FTC, so it doesn’t feel all that cathartic. The others who haven’t done this before are rejoicing over the perceived privilege. I’ve been in this environment for far too long.

I sit and wait while my new platoon-mates clean their weapons, having not been issued one of my own.

This place is different than it was in Alpha. The building is new, but constructed in a strangely older style. The halls are narrow and a vast majority of our taught activities are conducted in 4 classrooms along the ground floor. The sizes of the bays are also smaller, 20 to 30 people in comparison to Alpha’s 60. The mood here is significantly quieter and somehow more annoying. All the members of my platoon have taken on the attitude of complete silence that some of the DSs find value in. We’re expected to know the Army Song here, something that we didn’t have to care about in Alpha.

My conversations with the national security analyst tell me that there’s minor upheaval in the upper echelons of the military concerning the way training is conducted.

With the easier standards, and my preparation in FTC, I find myself less tired during the day.

Another night of fireguard comes and goes quickly, the single hour shift flying by in comparison to the FTC standard two hour shift. By the time I’m done with my share of the cleaning duties and the tasks that I needed to do, there is no time left to be spent at the desk set up for fireguard. The announced schedule here is actually what is adhered to, so our 4:30 AM wakeup is a true time. This differs from Alpha’s times actually requiring you to do everything 30 minutes in advance.

Day 250

Morning PT was moderately tough. It was comprised of core, conditioning, and climbing, followed by pushups and sit-ups.

Today is another range day and I’m wondering what I’ll be doing. My only responsibilities for the time being are to show up in the right places, do PT, and breathe.

The range has single targets, and while the rest of my company goes to shoot, I’m left to wait playing the role of air guard, staring up at the sky watching for aircraft.

In the course of running errands, I accompanied an injured trainee to the hospital, bearing witness to the places I had been, seeing an injured trainee from who-knows-where dressed in full basic regalia – dirty, tattered ACUS, crutches, and a pack that lolled to the side. Staring out forlornly from behind dirty eye protection, he looked like an abandoned puppy waiting for a mother that would never come. It’s a reminder of where I’ve been and how far I’ve come. I’ll exceed the standard and continue to improve.

Day 251

I’m up again for the same shift of fireguard. It’s like a twisted sense of déjà vu. In the usual cleaning duties we end up having to sweep up and mop the laundry. Tonight’s challenge is complements of a DS that dumped a bag of laundry detergent all over the floor since someone forgot it in there. If they actually wanted to keep the place clean they wouldn’t just dump out the contents of every bag.

I’ve been asked to skip PT in the morning to accompany someone who’s exiting the army – a process I’ve become too familiar with.

Given my status, I was pulled from PT to help guard weapons and watch one of the chapters and a con-leave.

Walking around this morning set off a pain in my hip that I hadn’t felt in a long time. If it gets worse I’ll have to struggle through it until I can at least get to the next phase.

The day’s training was cut short on account of rain. EST was as it always was, full of sand and suffering [Engagement Skills Trainer]. My role was to stand guard of the weapons. As the rain began to fall, I was given a poncho to borrow but told not to use the hood. The march out wasn’t horrible, or at least not as horrible as other experiences I’ve had.

Day 252

The cold has returned. After morning PT, we were bussed out to the range in a chill. We’re still in a place that I’ve been to before, leaving me unable to do anything of value. It’s cold enough that it makes it hard to write, my hands feeling numb.

I still don’t have any gear and my time is allocated to staring at the sky, waiting for low flying aircraft as part of range aircraft guard. It strikes me that my time back here in this company is like seeing a foreign remake of a television show that I’ve seen already. Everything is approximately the same – but different in ways that bug me slightly. Like I’m somehow both unsatisfied with their choice of casting as well as the fact that the general direction of the show seems repetitive.

After finishing the range time, we spent the rest of the day watching SHARP videos [Sexual Harassment/Assault Response & Prevention] on YouTube and cleaning weapons.

Sitting on the sidelines, I watched the platoon descend into bickering after dinner, the Senior Drill Sergeant assigning us new student leadership as a means of singling out our trouble makers.

Day 253

It’s Friday morning and time for the company to prequalify on marksmanship. Despite promises that I’d have gear assigned to me already, I’ve yet to be issued a weapon. I have a feeling I’ll be stuck shooting an unzeroed weapon.

I anxiously plan ahead to try and keep myself in shape, or in a condition bearing similarity to it. FTC received too many people from here and I don’t want to end up being one of them this cycle. I can only imagine how that would go down.

I find myself back at the same range I qualified on previously, except now the setting is covered in fog. It’s like an M. Night Shyamalan movie this time, the distantly familiar graffiti almost nostalgic.

I take my place on the sidelines again, watching others shoot as I wait for the day to progress.

Day 254

The morning comes too soon and PT today is a muscle failure workout. I feel nauseated and a general sense of malaise. My thoughts are scattered and still not quite on track. After breakfast I was finally issued a weapon, an M16A2. The rifle belonged to another person who’s leaving for con leave. Funny how things come full circle.

After receiving my rifle, I was taken out to the same range from the other day and told to zero. With nothing to do immediately afterward, I was given the opportunity to shoot an M4 with a CCO [Close Combat Optic, basically a red-dot sight] before we do ARM [Advanced Rifle Marksmanship] along with the other trainees who are here. Considering it’s been like 6-8 months since my last experience with live rounds, I don’t think I did too poorly.

I spoke to the commander of this company. It turns out that I’ve been at Ft. Jackson longer than he’s been in charge of this command. It’s a strange feeling.

The whole company has qualified and now that I have issued equipment I’ll be joining the company in regular training. We practiced Omaha lanes, grenades, and barricade shooting out at the PT field.

Laundry and clean clothes are becoming a luxury commodity again.

Day 255

Sunday again. Another week down and the end of the journey still feels like it’s a long way away. They bussed us past a PX yesterday with complete food court, and I realized that I recognized the smell of the food they were serving but couldn’t identify what exactly it was.

The day’s activities start with a voluntary PT session I chose to attend – I’ll continue to work on my running as I await the next test.

After lunch, we were made to do area beautification before being lined up to go to the PX and get haircuts.

The activity afterward was cut short by a thunderstorm and tornado warning to the area, followed up pouring rain. Due to the weather, we were made to wait in the DFAC as the torrential rain came down.

Day 256

This morning was slightly different than most. There was no PT today, as everyone had to head to Reception for deferred issue to get dress uniforms.

Since I’d already received my uniform, I spent the day sitting around and waiting for everyone else. My company for the day is a handful of non-trainers.

At midmorning we were made to lay out the company’s rifles for a 100% accountability check. A menial task, but nothing to really complain about.

Earlier yesterday, we received a platoon transfer for personal reasons – someone that seems to be widely regarded by cadre and trainee alike as being both incompetent and bizarre. Personally I find her reminiscent of a troll doll from the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Lunch was another MRE followed by restacking the weapons.

Day 257

The day has been busy, morning PT and chow took us straight into activities and training related to the upcoming NIC course. [Night Infiltration Course].

Full battle rattle this time is stifling; I was given an IBA and a helmet a size too small, making it that much more difficult to breathe [‘Full battle rattle’ refers to his full set of infantry gear]. Low and high crawling practice led into a march to EST where we did CCO shooting practice.

I’m here burning out the last of my patience, watching the whole dynamic of the group imploding the same way I’ve seen it before. I can’t bring myself to care all that much. I’ve seen it before and it’ll play out the same way it always does.

Day 258

Up at night for a CQ shift. The assignment is a quick, though Sisyphean, task of mopping the common lobby and hallway. Walking through parts of the building elicits memories of a certain mustiness – the smell so common to commercial airliners.

My assigned buddy nods off with a special kind of dedication while the NCO on duty watches Game of Thrones in the background.

Day 259

It’s been a fairly low impact day thus far. After morning PT, we were promised live fire range time later in the evening. Since then, it has been nothing but weapons cleaning and personal study. The company doesn’t seem as prepared as Alpha did – there are portions of classroom instruction that have not been covered here but had already been completed a week prior during my first time through BCT.

The night shoot was not as impressive as last time. This company didn’t have tracers or some of the luxuries that Alpha had. However, this time around I was able to see through the NODs properly and use the laser sight effectively.

Day 260

Up early as usual, though we had less sleep than normal because last night’s shoot.

Everyone else seems to be concerned about the upcoming Confidence Course and the NIC crawl. I just want to get it over with. Once this day is done I’ll be caught up to where I was in training before I got injured.

The Confidence Course was new, but not particularly amazing. We were scheduled for five walls: the skyscraper, Jacob’s ladder, a zip line thing, and an inverted rope challenge.

Of those, we only did the skyscraper, Jacob’s ladder, and the inverted rope. Movement to the course was a foot march, which was an uncomfortable experience thanks to my improperly fitted gear, rifles held at port arms, and a renewed heat. The weather has definitely taken a turn for the worse, but I cannot tell how hot it really is.

After eating, and the sun going down hours later, we were herded to the event area in our platoons. The actual crawl seemed to go by faster this time, only hampered by the stricter buddy guidance rules here. The whole experience was a near repeat of my last time doing the NIC, save for the lack of firing exercises and the complexity of the activities at the end.

I’m up and awake from 3:00 AM – 4:00 AM for CQ, taking care to look at least a little bit alive while my partner seems to drift in and out of consciousness. In reality, I’d like to do the same. I’m the most exhausted I’ve been since showing up here, and getting myself downstairs to this place of duty is the hardest thing for the night.

All of us here brought back enough of the sand from the NIC that the floor in the bay has become beach-like. Thanks to our sweeping duties and the clothing and equipment we were wearing, we’re covered in the moon-dust like grit that still clings to all of us. Truly it’s back to the old motto of “Join the army, eat sand.

 

This ends Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XVIII – BCT 2. The next entry in the series continues with Kilroy going through his second round of Basic Training. Stay tuned for Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XIX – BCT 2.

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