Kilroy Joins the Army – Part VII – 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 VII – Basic Training (BCT).

 

Day 25:

Red Phase testing began today. The day started with a group run, followed by meal time. From there, we were immediately hustled to take the test.

We basically were given the answers verbatim just before the test, and yet, people still managed to fail somehow. Human incompetence knows no bounds.

The hands-on portion of the test was just as simple – answers were given and help was provided so long as you were making an effort.

I suppose I should be thankful for the ease of testing; the more people that pass, the better for us.

Day 26:

Week 3 is over and we’ve finally found a rhythm. I got to do laundry again today, but didn’t have as much as last time due to proper planning during the week.

My first set of letters to fellow trainees have been passed along, and a set of replies have already come back to me.

We have been granted a brief reprieve; more hours to ourselves and a bit of time to decompress. I still long for silence and solitude. However, that’s unlikely to happen any time soon.

I still find this place to be frustratingly poorly managed. For all the hundreds of people we have, there’s only a very small number of washers and driers available, and at any given time, up to half of those are broken, some in more subtle ways than others.

After our short stint of personal time, we’ve been herded to the DFAC [Dining Facility] and then back for more classroom activity.

Class today was designed to try and get soldiers to adjust to stressful situations and learn how to bounce back afterwards. [Kilroy mentioned it was referred to as ‘Master Resiliency Training’].

However, the class is comprised of material you’d get from an introductory psych class, after watering everything down and passing it along through a game of ‘telephone’. Trained doctors teach the NCOs a dumbed down version of the material, who then have to teach an even more dumbed down version to us recruits. Having already covered this material in much greater detail before, it’s a bit of a joke to me. I kind of miss the academic side of formal psychology.

Later in the day they had us do some area beautification, which mostly involved cutting grass with an E-tool [shovel] and edging lawn. It went over without much hassle, but our mealtime afterwards was interrupted by a storm developing very suddenly overhead.

Lightning lit up the area and the thunder rumbled in with almost no delay. As a result, they took us inside to let us finish our meal while rain continued to come down by the bucket-load outside. A nearby tree was struck by lightning not long after we went in.

Day 27:

Today is a holiday apparently. On a regular government schedule we would have had a four day weekend – but here it’s just another day.

The day began with PT and mealtime in the darkness of morning and was followed by more classroom instruction.

Most of the class time today has been yet another CLS class [Combat Lifesaver]. Sleep remains a rare luxury to most of us, and the cool, dark classroom we were in made staying awake a Sisyphean task.

We got a break to eat and received a lecture about the importance of stretching, but then we were driven back to the classroom for more instruction.

Morale has definitely improved, but it seems to have not affected our discipline. The problem-children remain problem-children, and dealing with them is like watching your own kid run the ball down the field the wrong way in a football game.

Day 28:

The one benefit of midnight fire guard is that it gives me some time alone to reflect. My own personal morale seems to be hanging by a few threads – that feeling of burnout somehow still building up. We are near the halfway point, but that doesn’t seem to help my mental state. They talk to us about motivation, but I find no fulfillment in the things we do.

Never in my life have I spent five hours trying to zero a weapon. Honestly, I didn’t think such a thing was possible. An off-the-rack M16 seemed to perform poorly when I applied my usual shooting technique, although I’ll be the first to admit that my riflery skills aren’t as good as they should be.

The rest of the day seems like it will be either spent on this bleacher in hundred degree weather or ruck marching back to base. I’ll be the first to admit I’m definitely not cut out for infantry if it’s mostly this type of activity, especially the marching and rucking aspects.

Day 29:

Today s another day at the range, but with one major caveat. I finished zeroing my weapon and got a good grouping yesterday, so I got bench-side seats to observe while the rest of the group went about their business still trying to set up their rifles.

I’m not normally a vocal protestor of doing nothing while there’s nothing to do (as opposed to doing nothing when there IS something to do), but I know the day will heat up dramatically and I’m not looking forward to more of same misery from yesterday.

[Later in the day, Kilroy continues below].

The day has warmed up considerably. They’ve given us busywork to do since there are enough of us who have finished by now that it’s become unfeasible to keep us all on the bleachers.

The night ran extremely late, and ended with another march back in the darkness.

Day 30:

New range, new day, same shit.

After morning PT we were herded onto a bus and taken to a better maintained range than we were at yesterday, which had a computerized LOMAH system (Location of Misses and Hits).

Quite a few people in our platoon have yet to be able to zero their rifles properly. The day passed rather uneventfully, but I turned out to be as good of a shot as I had hoped to be, and I was complimented on my shooting by the range master. A nice change of pace from my experiences here so far.

Although I haven’t received any additional letters from my local pen pal, we did manage to get more time to converse in person.

While we waited for the rest of our platoon to finish zeroing their weapons, we were given voluntary lessons on infantry troop movement and returning fire.

My focus remains scattered and I’m still worried about the limits of my own body. I’m really feeling the aches and pains of everything we’ve done so far, despite having worked out quite a bit in the months leading up to this. According to the staff here, toe numbness is considered normal and knee pain is something to be ignored. [Unsurprisingly, that assessment turned out to be wrong, as will eventually be made clear].

My day ends with another hour of non-sleep. Another night of fire guard requires me to wake up and change out of my PT uniform and into my ACUs, before doing it again in reverse when my shift ends. The worst part of this is that even though the shift is an hour long, you need to be awake 20 minutes before the shift begins in order to be properly dressed and ready. It really puts a damper on any REM sleep you might be hoping to get.

I’ve already done my best to prioritize sleep over everything else and yet there never seems to be enough to go around.

Day 31:

Today comprised of an all-day activity which began with an AGR run in the morning and then range time on the live fire testing course in the afternoon. [AGR stands for Ability Group Run, which has the trainees running in formation at different speeds depending on the group’s capabilities].

I felt that my performance was lacking on the shooting course today, and I hope to be able to improve before the day of the real test. I place value in my identity as a shooter and I plan on doing my best to justify that value.

 

This ends Kilroy Joins the Army – Part VII – 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 VIII – Basic Training (BCT).

 

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