Kilroy Joins the Army – Part VIII – Basic Training (BCT)


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 VIII – Basic Training (BCT).


Day 32:

My day begins earlier than usual. I had the final fire guard shift of the night, which comes with the privilege of staring at the door in stifling heat and humidity. We’re all suffering the consequences of the air conditioning breaking down.

Morale is low. We were initially told we’d be transitioning to White Phase already, but apparently that was a lie and some of us actually have more stuff left to do in Red Phase. People are upset because usually you get more privileges in each subsequent phase of BCT, which we’ve now been denied. Plus, the Drill Sergeants are treating us more harshly than usual.

The real part of the day began in the same darkness and confusion typical of mornings here, followed by combatives classes [hand to hand combat training], and some manual lawn care for “character building”.

The heat here is oppressive. Though the temperature isn’t any hotter than the deserts of California, the humidity makes it seem like we’re trapped in a damp hell.

At the moment, I’m solidly regretting my decision to join the military. I’m having a hard time trying to keep my head in the game. The lack of sleep and constant daily challenges make the whole experience pretty unenjoyable. This was all expected, but it doesn’t make it suck any less.

The day dragged on with more classroom activity, though we had a brief interruption from a plaque salesman trying to part us from our recently earned money.

Day 33:

It’s finally Sunday. Despite a rare full night’s rest, I’m still in pain and more drained than ever before.

The hours have been spent doing laundry but were filled with an air of apprehension. Our upcoming week will be chock full of activities and I’m not looking forward to it.

I’m feeling pretty severe pain in my hip. They say we should go get our problems checked out when we can, but in reality they do nothing but criticize us for going to see the medical staff.

We were given an unprecedented amount of free time to clean the bay or do whatever we pleased. However, that time came to an end shortly after people returned from the PX [Post Exchange].

That was followed up with more classroom activity about first aid. We then rounded out the day with an MRE dinner.

Day 34:

Woke up again for fire guard, guaranteeing my being tired in the morning. Sweeping the floors in the dark with nothing but a dim red lens flashlight is a Sisyphean task. I might as well be sweeping blindly. [Although it’s been referenced earlier in the series, the light Kilroy refers to is the flashlight they’re given, a Fulton MX991/U Flashlight with a red light filter].

The video company in charge of recording our progress to sell back to us is here, though their policy prevents them from showing us doing pushups. I guess that makes the Army look bad?

I’m slowly shifting from general annoyance to a kind of loathing of this place. The policies and administration annoy me on a basic level and I find myself questioning why I’m here almost every day. There are very few things keeping me going each day that provide peace of mind, and as more time passes I have to be even more careful of how I utilize them.

We began the day with a long ruck march out to familiar territory. Once there, they had us do a CLS combat drill. [CLS stands for Combat Lifesaver Course].

After marching back, we were taken back to the electronic range training facility to try to get us to score better on our qualifications. I’m still working on getting my scores up past expert level. I’m aiming for a true 40/40, but in my current state I’ll only just barely qualify at expert.

The rest of the day played out like so many before; cleaning the sand out of our weapons and wallowing in our own misery. The fact that we’re supposedly half way done with BCT still hasn’t sunk in. Five weeks have passed and I’m still feeling like it’s day one.

Day 35:

Today has been a stressful day. I had to jump through a number of hoops to get a bottle of Ibuprofen. Sick call gave me crutches but I managed to avoid a profile in the end. [A profile is a document issued by the medical staff that restricts participation in activities due to physical injury or illness].

The rest of the day was dedicated to range time. My scores are steadily improving. I started with a score of 26 which eventually improved to 30. If my improvement continues to follow this curve I’ll be at least able to qualify for expert.

Day 36:

Today was our first time at the real qualification range. I got a 31/40, not good enough. Hopefully I’ll get another chance today to improve that score, or else I’ll have one last chance to make it happen tomorrow.

I’m disappointed in my current score. I got a second chance, on which I got a 33/40. It’s still not quite good enough but at least it’s a small step forward.

Day 37:

I’ve failed at my goal. I didn’t qualify as expert. I don’t have much more to say about that.

The day was long and we experienced the same oppressive heat that seems to define this place. Maybe I really did die and go straight to some humid hell.

I’m at full burnout, no motivation, no joy. It’s frustrating to know there was something I could do but still failed to accomplish it despite my best efforts.

Day 38:

Today was full of administrative tasks. They’ve taken us back to reception and given us more vaccinations. Army medical remains as impersonal and miserable as always.

Afterwards, we were taken to be fitted for our dress uniforms. This activity is like all the others; more lines and waiting around. I’m more used to it by now, numbed to the experience.

We’re still berated for being undisciplined and having poor personal standards. I don’t agree, but I have no will left to fight to prove them wrong. We’re all tired, and the sand and gravel weighs us down.

Day 39:

Looking forward to Sunday tomorrow. However, today is the same as many others; PT after a 4 AM wake up. It’s raining today, so PT was followed up by classroom instruction in lieu of outdoor combatives training.

The rain itself comes as a nice change – a small taste of mercy I suppose. In other news, although my letter writing partner hasn’t actually replied with a letter, we’ve had some very good conversations in person. That provides some mental respite.

[Later at night, Kilroy continues below].

Fire guard yet again. This happens often enough now that I’m seriously lacking in things to write about. Hanging around in the dark waiting for something to happen and spending our time cleaning the latrines rather than sleeping is one of the more annoying parts of this experience.

Day 40:

Today is yet another Sunday. Since we’re in White Phase now, the Drill Sergeants don’t care as much what we do with our time or how we do it, within reasonable limits. Time passes quickly here – the hours to myself are gone before I know it. After a short classroom session we were tasked with doing more area beautification.


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