Kilroy Joins the Army – Part II – Reception


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 II – Reception.


Day 4:

It’s been four days that have felt like a month, I’m still not in Basic Training, and I have no clue when I’ll finally finish processing. The worst part is that it feels like nothing is getting done and there’s no sense of progress at all.

Our days start in the dark at 3:00 AM. We are expected to arrive at our positions 15 minutes before we’re actually supposed to be there. The lack of sleep is both miserable and pointless, since we’re being woken up to do next to nothing all day.

The oppressive heat, verbal abuse from the Reception staff, and unclear instructions are manageable, but the fear that I’ll fail out by getting injured or sick due to something as silly as insufficient recovery time is the worst part. [Kilroy will eventually discover he was more right than he realized].

It’s almost impressive how much time is wasted here and how miserable they make the situation. The prospect of Basic Training seems that much more appealing just because it means I’ll no longer be in Reception. Although, if this is what I should expect in the Army, Basic Training will probably just be worse.

There’s a girl I recognize from when we landed at the airport in South Carolina. She’s joining the National Guard, and looked like she was 12 years old when I first saw her, bright and hopeful. After these handful of days in Reception, she looks broken and miserable now, just going through the motions.

Some people extoll the idea of military-issue or government-issue gear/supplies. I’ve since learned what that means. You’re herded into a stuffy basement to get yelled at for no reason other than that the people have been working there for far too long. Whether or not the items they give you are a good fit depends on how nice the person working feels like being at the time.

The weather has been worsening with the heat rising to ‘condition black’ (Heat Category V) [Temperature of > 90°F]. However, the heat alone isn’t the issue. The humidity is really what’s taking a toll.

Also, I’m so used to feeling connected and knowing what’s going on in the world with the latest news always a few clicks away. Having an information blackout and internet disconnect is an odd and uncomfortable feeling. It certainly seems like I’m missing out on world events.

The drill sergeants seem to have an obsession with silence. Maybe they seem to think it’ll make the time pass more comfortably (for them, not us). The inability to even converse with the recruits around you is frustrating and incredibly boring.

They seem to expect us to become accustomed to and enjoy the silence, but it seems like a process that would be better accomplished by a firm, rather than draconian, hand. The fear of punishment looms heavily over anyone considering the possibility of breaking the silence. The Army calls this ‘soldierization’, but I question whether it’s really necessary.

It’s not that we’re not accomplishing very much, it’s that it takes so much time for us to just do nothing. I feel like the discipline they’re trying to instill is merely subjugation in the guise of order.

Even during my short time here, it feels like I’m constantly exposed to Army propaganda designed to instill a certain way of thought that prioritizes predictability over efficiency. It really bothers me on an intrinsic level since I have the tendency to err on the side of individualism, especially when it comes to improving efficiency and effectiveness.

One of the sergeants reprimanded a new recruit by assigning him a 500 word essay, with the requirement that the essay extoll the necessity of discipline in the Army. Of course his essay was just regurgitating the propaganda we’ve been fed so far, mixed with some references to popular warrior culture. I’m a bit disappointed about the arbitrary nature of the punishment as well as the recruit’s decision to simply accept and do it.

I’m curious to see how everyone is doing by the end of this ordeal. I expect some people might be ready to quit after this experience, but who knows what motivations the variety of people here have for joining the military in the first place. At least in prison the prisoners are allowed personal time. In that sense, this is worse.

Apparently the DFAC is sponsored by Sunkist. Even the Gatorade-like drink at the “Sunkist Hydration Station” is labelled “Sunkist Lemon-Lime Sports Drink”.

The Reception area is poorly managed. Many of the bathrooms lack paper and soap, and many of the toilets are clogged. It’s very apparent that the Army prefers to maintain the area using the free labor of the incoming recruits. They made it clear to us that dropping out during Reception results in 6-8 weeks of free labor for the Army, because that’s how long it takes them to process the paperwork for the recruits that quit. In any case, relying on poorly motivated and exhausted new recruits for facilities maintenance results in dirty, dingy floors and questionable plumbing.

At least we’re nearing the end of the processing tasks required, though we have a few days left on the clock before we make it to Basic Training. It can’t come soon enough.

Day 5:

Despite having been here in Reception for four days, we still haven’t finished processing. Now that it’s the weekend, no one in our group has any clue what’s going on. We were given an extra hour of sleep because there was a sudden rainstorm, and even the slight amount of extra sleep has improved morale. Other than taking inventory, no one is sure what they have planned for us today, but I’m hoping we’ll get some personal time to decompress.

Later on in the day they gave us our vaccinations. It was another impersonal and mechanical exercise of just herding people through. Three vaccinations in one arm two in the other, plus  a pair of pills they were adamant about us not chewing. So far, all of our medical-related activities have been headed up by one sergeant who comes across as quite an asshole.

Day 6:

Finally, we’re one day away from shipping to Basic Training. The only remaining tasks are ship line arrangement and some more paperwork at the personnel department before we go.

Somehow, some people still haven’t caught on to the way things work around here. The females seem to appear to have catty attitudes and lack more discipline than their male counterparts, which leads to them getting in trouble more often than the male groups. In general though, most of the people here are quite young, and they’ve been worn down in Reception which has taken an obvious toll on their resolve.

Luckily, morale is higher since we were allowed to sleep a bit more and have some personal time over the weekend. However, we’re still under constant threat of arbitrary discipline. Today we were punished with random formation drills designed to waste our time. At least my platoon has started working together somewhat as a team to avoid upsetting the drill sergeants.

Day 7:

Our shipping out process began at night. Unfortunately, someone in the group already messed something up and got us all in trouble. Even though we’ve been here a short time, it’s painfully obvious which people will be the weak links in the chain.

This is the first time they’ve had us wearing our issued ACUs [Army Combat Uniforms]. However, the heat has been oppressive – reports claim Heat Category III [85-87 .9°F] – so they’ve already had us un-blouse and open our pants to compensate for it. The uniforms really don’t breathe well, and the boots I’ve been issued seem to be a poor fit. My pinky toes are taking the brunt of the abuse.

My fatigue isn’t helped by the situation; for some reason this has been the most tired I have ever been.

We are set to ship later this afternoon. Our bags are all in line and we are awaiting our assignment as a nervous air settles in amongst the recruits.


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