Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XIX – 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 XIX – BCT 2.

 

Day 261

Following the events of the two previous days, today was a low impact recovery day. The only activities assigned were weapons maintenance and preparation for the upcoming FTX [Field Training Exercise], which means we spent the entirety of the day locked up in a classroom.

The most noteworthy thing from today was a conversation with one of the Drill Sergeants about the status of the Army, training, and how Alpha’s methods were detrimental to our training. Another interesting note was that the Arabic music played during my first time through NIC (in Alpha Company) was apparently banned as being either racist or some form of unwanted brainwashing.

Day 262

Another Sunday, another end of the week. The additional sleep from the previous night comes as a boon, but many still seem tired. My mental state remains stable and my actions have become automatic.

It seems one of my previous cohorts has managed to reappear in FTC as a blue belt after having done her time as an injured person. [This means that she failed her final PT test after going back to BCT, which caused her to be sent back to FTC]. I didn’t really know that was even a possibility, but now that I do, I’ll continue to work to avoid it. I can’t imagine how it would be to return to that place in my condition. My only goal now is getting to Monterey.

Our Sunday went on as it always did in BCT: area beautification that is more designed to waste our time than to accomplish anything.

We’re all anticipating the upcoming field exercise for tomorrow. Organizationally, there’s no real consensus on half the stuff we really want to take. The oddity of this company comes from the fact that they expect us to bring one set of PT uniforms to wear in the field. I’m still not exactly sure what that entails for our activities out there.

Day 263

We had an AGR for morning PT before being bussed out to the FTX grounds, leaving us all even more tired than normal [AGR stands for Ability Group Run, which has the trainees running in formation at different speeds depending on the group’s capabilities].

The vast majority of the day’s activity consisted of digging and other maintenance of a hasty fighting position, a familiar task I carry no love for. After establishing our holes, we lay in them to the point of boredom and exhaustion, fading in and out of consciousness.

We spent the whole day in the holes, biding our time while the sun made its inexorable progress across the sky. I discussed my story, as well as the hip pain, with the platoon mate sharing the hole with me – he’s experiencing shooting hip pain down his leg.

The night was cold as I rushed to put a tent together. It’s a huge difference from the sleeping bags outdoors we used in Alpha Company. What a luxurious change of pace.

Day 264

Morning PT came as an annoying change in the field, starting the day with a pushup/situp drill. The poor sleep was no help to us as we did PT in the soft sand.

My friend who was having hip pain has gone to sick call, leaving myself and the other guy in the hole with us to carry his things from the sleeping ground down to the fox holes. The way this company seems to handle weapons and gear for sick call makes little sense – the battle buddy assigned to them must chaperone their things all day.

The day’s real content consisted of white phase testing, which was mostly just a review of materials I already had committed to memory. It included activities like M16 maintenance and use, radios, land nav, CLS lanes [Combat Lifesaver practice], and a single battle drill.

During the CLS lanes and the battle drill, our assigned squad leader froze while trying to manage the nine line medevac call and the squad communications, leaving me to walk her through it.

Afterwards, the buddy who went to sick call returned sporting a new set of crutches, just as predicted.

In an impromptu AAR [After Action Report] for the white phase testing, a conversation with the Drill Sergeant reaffirmed the fact that parts of Alpha’s training was superior to this one in the sense that we covered things there in earlier weeks that this company hadn’t even planned on covering.

The amusing activity for the day was when one of our DSs came through and ‘killed’ a number of people who were failing at pulling security and asking the challenge and answer password.

Day 265

Morning came too early and unwelcome, a light drizzle setting the mood for the day.

During the night, I had a shift of field fireguard, an activity which consisted of pacing circles around the campground and watching for potential mischief.

I was still saddled with the stuff belonging to the guy who went to sick call yesterday, which forced me to cart it down the hill to our platoon’s area of operations.

That was followed up with more field PT along with breakfast. Afterwards, we had our ruck march. The pace and safety precautions were a definite change from Alpha.

Halfway through the march it began to rain heavily. All of us concluded the march soaked down to the bone, and the only thing that saved this notebook from destruction was the MRE hot drink bag I shoved it into.

Lunch came slightly later, consisting of MREs.

Day 266

I was exhausted this morning. Everything about myself feels abused and completely worn out.

Morning PT passed without mention, the pain keeping me performing to any great standards.

After PT, we were rushed through chow and changing to a march out to the MSTF range – a medical simulation training facility – for review of tactical combat casualty care and how to run lanes of simulated casualty care.

Running the lanes with the squad I’m in was a disaster; no one was coordinated and many were simply not thorough enough in their actions to do what was required. The consensus as to the cause of this was the incompetence of our squad leader, who froze during the most chaotic sections.

We had a late lunch, followed by a march back. I remain exhausted, moments in the warm sunlight standing still almost putting me to sleep standing up

Up next is Bastogne – the US weapons section of training. They tell us we’ll be briefed about it today in preparation, but for the moment all that most of us seem to want is a good night’s sleep and enough calories for our bodies to repair themselves.

The open invitation from the WTRP [Warrior Training Rehabilitation Program] comes to mind – going in to sick call will guarantee me a profile for avoiding running or something else similarly meant to prevent re-injury. I want one, but I can’t bring myself to go in for it. Until the last foot march, I wasn’t actually experiencing any pain to write home about, but in these days following I’ve been experiencing some twinges that felt muscular in nature. I won’t be going in to get one until it hurts to stand again. As comfortable and familiar as I was with the FTC cadre and the way things ran there, I cannot afford to go back. My direction must be forward.

All I can do for the moment is look forward to Sunday. By that point, I’ll be solidly in blue phase and can mark it off as yet another small milestone in the brickwork of things I’ll never have to do again. This time I’ll get to the end of this journey and mark off the whole experience here in BCT as something I’ll never do again.

Do I regret how things have turned out? Of course. But I’ve met some good people and done some good things along the way. I can treasure at least some of the relationships and things I’ve witnessed. The bottom line comes straight out of those movie trailer tag lines: things will never be the same again.

Day 267

Twenty days left in this place and the others are counting down with excitement. In the meanwhile, exhaustion is the name of the game. We were woken up earlier than expected and rushed out to the PT field for morning exercise in our ACUs before being bussed to the Bastogne training range.

Our first meal was rushed to an extreme degree, and then all of us were sent to the range bleachers for the live fire demonstrations. The explosions of the M203 and AT4 grenades and rockets seemed underwhelming from the distance we were at.

After being organized and sent onto the ranges, actually firing the machine guns and explosive launchers really did come across as too fast and fairly underwhelming.

The training rounds for the M203 and AT4 were as unimpressive as could be. The belts of the MGs flew through them without much ado.

We left the range at 11AM and spent the rest of the day lazing about in the classroom cleaning the weapons we shot, as well as our personally assigned rifles.

Day 268

Today we had Remagen – grenades for live fire. We were told to gather in ACUs for the morning, eschewing PT for once. My mood feels slightly rejuvenated now after a small moment of Zen the previous night. It was the comforting feeling of being exactly where I need to be and doing exactly what I needed to do.

I qualified for the live grenade toss the first go round, but chicken winged my throw, ending up with a label on my helmet like a scarlet letter.

After more waiting came the briefing and transportation to the real grenade bunker – the same throwing sequence, just with lives on the line this time.

Herded into the tiny staging area, we were made to place our heads and feet up against the wall while waiting to go, and then shuffling along the wall. The task was made incredibly uncomfortable by the body armor and camelback we were wearing, causing all of us to stand distended at an awkward angle the entire time we waited.

Arriving at the receiving point with two live grenades pressed against my chest, there was yet more waiting to ready and stage for the blast lane. The sound of each explosion rocked the old bunker, sounding like thunder, with occasional pieces of shrapnel falling upon the roof like hail.

The actual throw and blast from my own grenades turned out to be as underwhelming as my experience thus far. Despite the proximity, I couldn’t even feel the shockwave from where I crouched after throwing them. Just like that, it was all over. Two grenades and then back into the bunker to suffer standing in line ad nauseam.

The whole company cycled through quickly and we were done in the early afternoon, coming back to a day full of weapons cleaning and the written portion of the white phase testing that displayed the same characteristics of Army academics I’ve come to expect here.

Converting over from FTC back to BCT has put me into an Erlenmeyer flask, isolating me from most relationships and the world at large.

Day 269

My PT score currently stands at better than AIT standards: 51 pushups, 68 sit-ups, and 16:17 run time, which is a comforting result considering how worried I’ve been about passing and risking falling back to hell.

After lunch, we wasted time doing area beautification in the growing heat before being gathered together to do the trifecta of dinner, haircuts, and a trip to the small PX here.

Prior to dinner, we were correctively trained for someone’s family member communicating a personal joke on the company’s Facebook page. The DSs took this as both insult and a breach of OPSEC for being called “grilled sausage” and spent 30 minutes wasting our time with more exercises.

Day 270

I awoke today with a special status as part of the detail for setting up the hand grenade qualification course. Arriving at the site was deja vu, the memories of when I first returned to Alpha Company from sick quarters.

Setting up the course was a relatively easy task, placing dummy bodies and stacks of training fuses at each particular station.

After running the course once, I relieved a set of people manning a station and spent the rest of the time re-fusing the dummies. The cleanup took up the rest of our time on the range, explosives accountability creating its own host of problems. Rejoining the main group left us waiting almost two hours for transportation. “Hurry up and wait” was the name of the game today.

Dinner led straight into even more training – dry fire runs of the theoretical live fire we should have been doing. Never in my life have I yelled the word “bang” more often without actually playing Cops and Robbers. The wait became needlessly long to cycle everyone through dry fire practice.

Day 271

At last, the day of Omaha [Live Fire Exercise].

The range has been revamped in a way that it all seems unfamiliar. Gone are the eclectic obstacles of broken concrete walls and burnt out cars, even the concrete bunker housed at the end of the course. Instead, this new range has been sanitized with simple wooden obstacles and that same accursed orange sand that clings to everything. This company runs blanks followed by live rounds, an almost unnecessary exercise that feels like time wasting, especially in comparison to how Alpha ran it.

By the end of the first run with blanks, that fine orange sand had already coated everything, inside and out. I got to inhale some of the dust on the low crawl.

Afterwards, before the first live fire run, we were forced to attend CLS concurrent training hosted by other sergeants.

The weather returned to familiar territory as the temperature escalated drastically. Un-blousing our ACUs is an act that still reminds me of all the summer days I spent here.

This company served us ‘juice’, the same sugary electrolyte engineered drink [It’s what plants crave] we have with our meals as a means of maintaining our water retention.

The pain and soreness I currently have feel skin-crawlingly familiar to the initial issues I had those months ago. We have precious little in the way of training events left and I must continue to function until I can make it to the end. After all is said and done, even if it’s another injury, at least having all of my qualifying events completed will allow me to change my status.

 

This ends Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XIX – BCT 2. The next entry concludes the series as it follows Kilroy through the completion of his second round of Basic Training. Stay tuned for Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XX – BCT 2.

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