Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XX – 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.

Finally, we’ve reached the end of the series, as Kilroy completes his journal through Army Basic Training. He has since moved on, but due to both OPSEC [Operational Security], as well as the fact that it would be colossally boring, we will not be publishing his journal beyond BCT.

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

Without further ado, welcome to the final entry of Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XX – BCT 2.

 

Day 271

A day without much impact. With the other half of the company set to go to Omaha, those of us who remain behind are left to clean the weapons used for the machine gun shoot, as well as the standard order to clean our own M16s.

I spent the day drifting between tasks, coughing the whole time from something I picked up that was aggravated by inhaling dust and sand from the previous day.

My night is abbreviated yet again with a shift of CQ; the cough still present and combined now with a sore throat. The only thing I can do for now is just wait it out. There are only a small handful of things left to do here before we can call ourselves done with this experience – for good this time.

Come what may, all I can continue doing here is keep my nose to the grindstone and be grateful that what has happened has worked out so well in my favor. I’ve definitely seen all of this go much, much worse for people, and though what was supposed to be a 10 week challenge turned into some kind of multi-month struggle that I need to complete, at least I’m near the end.

On that note, an amusing story from yesterday comes to mind. As I was lying in the dirt, pretending to pull security with my designated battle buddy, we discussed the fact that so much of this experience is rooted in pretending and acting out a role designed to emulate the real thing, that the Army motto of “This we’ll defend” should be changed to “Let’s play pretend”. At the very least, I know there will be many of us out in the woods yelling “BANG!” at things in an upcoming exercise.

Our CQ tonight is being manned by an extra two people, this time dressed in full gear as a punishment for something that happened to them.

An unrelated point of interest: there are two prior service Navy sergeants running around completing Basic again for the second time in their lives.

Day 272

Today was another empty day meant for our recuperation.

We prepped our ruck sacks and began to stage them in preparation for Victory Forge. My sickness seems to be getting worse, bearing resemblance to what might be pneumonia.

Day 273

Today was the only day of our end-of-cycle PT test and I managed to pass this one with above AIT-standard scores despite my illness.

My voice is now gone, like it was in my previous time through Basic Training. I was worried about it enough that I asked to go in for some cold medicine in order to alleviate some of the symptoms before the upcoming march.

That appeared to have been a mistake; one of the staff there freaked out over my blood pressure, and they didn’t seem to care that I have a hypertension waiver.

I’ve been put into a non-training status and told I won’t be able to continue doing anything until they clear me to do so, meaning I’ll be restarted again because of the timing.

I can’t seem to get away from this. It feels a little bit like a curse that lingers in wait to ruin everything I try and do. I’m so close to the end now that I have no other description for this other than absolute despair.

Night falls with news given to us about force protection contingencies changing to Bravo levels, and our fire guard being amplified to include roving watch, door guards, and stationing even more people in the lobby.

I will graduate. I will continue on. I will not let this trifle stop me. This time will be the last time that I will need to do this. These are words that I simply cannot let be empty. My singular desire from this point stands to be that I wish to complete my training and graduate with this group. It will be done. It only seems to be so daunting because I exist in a time and place that lacks the patterns I’ve so keenly watched for so long.

Day 274

Morning comes disconnected and disjointed. Today is a sort of reckoning; I’ll be going to make my case in front of a second opinion in order to try and complete my training.

It’s a familiar melancholy, being back in a status where I’m not allowed to do anything. There’s literally a single training event left and I’m cutting it close to the wire. Those familiar with my situation say that my waiver should be enough.

My own body has rebelled against me here and I seem to be able to do nothing to stop it.

[Later in the day, Kilroy continues below].

My hopes for a swift correction at the urgent care clinic were dashed, with the given explanation being that they could not override the profile I was previously given. They made a recommendation to return to the TMC and try my luck there.

Returning to the TMC, [Troop Medical Clinic] I found it mostly empty, like an empty stage after a show. There, I ran into someone I’ve met once before, a PA [Physican’s Assistant] from the Victory Aid station that had treated me before.

Here she promised me a new solution, something that would help me while I’m arranged to hopefully return to training.

A few hours and some medication later, I’d been given a new lease on life. It was like awakening from a bad dream. I was given an RTD [Return to Duty] and told to go on my merry way.

As for lingering problems, I still have an issue with the cold I came in for in the first place. The cold symptoms I can deal with in the meanwhile, however.

Oddly, the congestion I was experiencing has mutated into a feeling in my left lung that seems to resemble the pain of the organ itself swelling up. Externally I see nothing, but internally the stabbing pain I’m experiencing is new to me. [Kilroy turned out to have pleuritis, which is typically caused by a lung infection. It ended up requiring a ten days of Levofloxacin].

Hopefully I’ll be better by tomorrow morning. Tomorrow marks the final required training event, and even with my current ailments, I feel confident in completing it. I can only continue to feel gratitude and move forward as I was prompted to.

Day 275

We were up early in the dark. My sickness was still bothering me as we settled in for the last and longest march of the cycle. The rhythm of the march was one hour of marching followed by 15 minutes of rest.

Eventually we passed into unfamiliar territory, past the cantonment of Dixie Road and the garrisons and out to the long, protracted training areas. Somehow the route manages to find every uphill path possible, ankle deep sand the whole way.

Day 276

This is the second day of Victory Forge. We were awoken at field hours for the day’s activities, beginning with more field PT in a fine layer of yet more sand.

After settling into the hasty fighting positions we were told to dig, we proceeded to do nothing for the rest of the day. The weather began to work against us, rising to ‘condition black’ (Heat Category V) [Temperature of > 90°F] for the afternoon, before it mercifully brought a thunderstorm overhead that halted all training for the rest of the day.

The actual area the activities were conducted in were different from Alpha’s and worse off for it. We had a single long march from a battalion FOB [Forward Operating Base] area rather than a series of short marches between different lane locations.

The day ended with us back in our tents, the looming threat of thunder and rain hovering above.

Day 277

We were up at 4:00 AM again, but no field PT this morning.

The day was spent running a long ‘react to contact’ drill, as well as a medical lane drill.

We ended the day with preparation for an early exit strategy to help get us ready for leaving tomorrow. They’ve promised us a repeat march back to the FOB zone.

I’m exhausted and my cough is worse. The weather heating up even further doesn’t help the situation.

Day 278

I was up earlier than normal to pack everything. We walked back to the FOB area again.

I should have been done with this by now. I continue to cough and feel sick, but my work – the real hard work for BCT, is done.

After returning to the company, we were given time to shower. However, that time was cut short by an order for us to come down and turn in our items not required for the upcoming inspection.

The night ended late, after a rite of passage ceremony to welcome us into the brotherhood of soldiers. Even this was different from how it was in Alpha.

Day 279

Today we were woken up extremely early to go do a ‘battalion fun run’. The rest of the day was spent cleaning our equipment and the company area in preparation for the end of BCT.

Day 280

I’m exhausted today after fireguard last night.

The low impact day was broken up with dealing with out-processing paperwork in the battalion classroom. I’ve never been happier than I was seeing the orders promising me delivery to Monterey.

I just have to hang in there until the fated day comes.

Day 281

We had a concert night tonight for Victory Week. Most people were talking about the pizza and other foods we’d be allowed to have.

Personally, I don’t really care for the idea and I’d rather be left alone in my own peace and quiet.

My singular daydream right now is about being in the airport waiting to fly out of here.

Getting us to the concert was disorganized and aggravating affair, as they filed us out in the heat, making whole battalions and brigades stand at the wayside of a road.

As we waited, I heard the cadre arguing about the pizza most people bought into. There was some disagreement about who was even supposed to have the right to order some.

I’m glad I opted not to join in and deal with that mess.

After a short parade, we were all moved down to the main area of the field and sat down in the grass to sit through a memorial service.

Once that was complete, people were allowed to get their pizza, which was a massively disorganized affair. It basically consisted of people rushing and swarming around the area where the pizza was.

Sitting back down on the grass, the concert went on in my periphery while I spoke with a friend.

Day 282

Waking up was difficult today. The late return from the previous day’s activities cost us sleep.

This is the final Sunday of the cycle. The day consists of what the previous have: weapons cleaning down to the smallest details.

Day 283

Today we were awoken an hour earlier than the time we’d been briefed on, and were told to turn in all of the gear we were issued previously. It turned out to be an all-day activity.

The weather continued to warm up, becoming unbearable by the afternoon.

Our evening meal was the Victory Dinner – an ostentatious display of congratulatory foodstuffs that had everyone else reveling in the experience. For myself, I only go for the sustenance. I’ve really just stopped feeling any great passion here in the experience. The moment of congratulatory revelry seems artificial.

After dinner, we continue to clean things, the end of the road clearly in sight now.

Day 284

We were up at 2:30 AM, early even for our standards.

Our first task of the day was cleaning weapons. This was followed up with an inspection while we were wearing the class B dress uniforms we’re set to graduate in.

My normal approach puts me ahead of the game in presentability before being dismissed.

The bulk of our day was spent in the sun, practicing the drill and ceremony of our graduation rehearsal – the weather made me wish I’d graduated back during the colder months.

I saw familiar faces from FTC in the crowd, our mutual recognition showing that small piece of joy where we had all overcome the odds to succeed together. Here we stood, finally, almost done.

After the outdoor rehearsal, we were shuttled to practice the indoor version in case of bad weather, but I was pulled aside to go to a briefing concerning my travel arrangements to AIT.

Once our exit packet preparation was complete, the company went on to yet another concert for Victory week.

This concert was headlined by someone from MWR [Morale Welfare and Recreation].

Day 285

Today was Family Day. Our theatrics and presentation were put to good use for the ceremony to hand us over to our families.

I spent the day revisiting the 120th to thank the cadre for the immense help they’ve given me and to touch base with old friends and familiar faces.

It was a joy to be welcomed back with open arms and to talk about how things are going in the clinic.

Following that, I went to the Victory aid station to thank the PA responsible for allowing me to continue to train.

We had meals at the Officer’s Club for lunch and dinner, giving the end of the day a feeling of contentment but not exuberant joy.

Day 286

It’s Graduation Day. We spent our time sweating in the sun and marching in uncomfortable plastic dress shoes that have shrunk since I wore them last.

The ceremony proceeded as planned, and I made use of the time afterwards to get an off post pass to go out and enjoy a late lunch/early dinner.

After returning to the company, we were kept up late into the night to clean and pack our bags.

Day 287

The day comes as an extension of the last. We changed our uniforms, took our bags, and turned in all the linen. The show is over and the theatre itself shut down.

I was taken by bus to the same airport I’ve flown from before. The entire feeling of going full circle brought a surreal air to our time spent waiting. This was simply meant to be a short, temporary, challenge that instead became something that ate almost an entire year of my life.

Finally, I’m proceeding down the path. Life goes on, and I know that whatever challenges I face beyond this point will be dealt with.

I touched down in Monterey in a haze. The in-processing at the DLI came at the expense of yet more sleep.

I’m awake into the next midnight trying to make a bed and arrange my room to the arbitrary specifications of the minutiae that the new SOP [Standard Operating Procedure] calls for.

Outside, the weather is a pleasant chill. I’m finally in Monterey, CA.

 

This ends Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XX – BCT 2 and completes the Kilroy Joins the Army series. Be sure to check out the rest of the site, and come back in the future for more military-related articles. That is, unless your thing is firearms, tech, or gaming, in which case we’ve already got you covered.

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One Comment

  1. I hope Kilroy tracks his AIT time in a journal and it’s blogged. I definitely enjoyed reading about his BCT experience.

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