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

 

Day 41:

Not much happened today. We were taken to the electronic training range wearing full gear, which included a vest [FLC – Fighting Load Carrier], a ballistic vest [IBA – Interceptor Body Armor], and helmet [ACH – Advanced Combat Helmet]. They just had us fire a few rounds for qualification.

Day 42:

Today is APFT day [Army Physical Fitness Test]. I’ve made progress on most fronts but I’ve managed to screw myself over on my run time. I want to believe that my running is better than it was when I first got here, but I still can’t confirm it. Our day and night was spent at a field range with night fire exercises taking up most of our time. I was unable to use the NODs [Night Optical/Observation Device] because they were poorly calibrated, so I only got the chance to use the laser.

Day 43:

We had a late start today, having to get up by 7 AM. Today was spent with more time in the field. Most of that time was divided between shooting briefly over barriers, sitting/standing around doing nothing, and cleaning the range weapons.

I’ve been waking up in quite a lot of pain these days, trying to deal with a limp in my right leg that seems to show no sign of abating.

Day 44:

There was another incident in the bay regarding one of the people waiting to leave the Army.

Last week, one of the people being chaptered out went crazy and attempted to light the bay below mine on fire. His tried to shove toilet paper into a seat cover dispenser and ignite it using the matches found in an MRE.

He was then moved into my bay as a result of the previous incident. What happened today was that he was accused of stealing someone’s “US ARMY” tape, which almost started a fight.

I got on the intercom and called a Drill Sergeant, and they moved him to a cot in the CQ office. [CQ stands for “Charge of Quarters”, which basically has people monitor the front entrance of a barracks, so the CQ office would be at the front].

Unfortunately for us, they also have put him on watch throughout the night, which requires two trainees to be in the room with him at all times, in addition to our regular Fire Guard.

The only thing reporting the incident did was cause trouble for the rest of us. We’re constantly told to “do the right thing,” but doing so only seems to make things worse for us.

Day 45:

We spent most of the day in an outdoor training area. The day’s training was comprised of the kind of practical skills we likely won’t get to follow up with subsequent training, such as room clearance, IED identification and destruction, and small squad movements.

As soon as night fell, we did the NIC [Night Infiltration Course].

The NIC is basically what’s always depicted in movies; they have us crawl under barbed wire across a field while live ammo is being fired overhead, complemented by the simulated mortar blast pits nearby that have been rigged with propane.

The night course itself was actually a fairly simple task, though the crawling section was long enough to be annoying. There were flashing lights and gunfire that went over our heads while crazy Arabic music was blasting from some speakers. It felt more like a strange theme park than a training exercise.

My injury hurts even more now, the crawling and running from the NIC not doing anything to improve my situation.

Day 46:

Today was pretty busy. We started with combatives training, and then spent the rest of the day in different classrooms. I’m pretty sure at least one of the rooms was a trap; the lights were dim and everything was darker than usual. Then, when people started to nod off, they were taken outside and smoked for an hour, doing stationary exercises interrupted only by sprints to the shed.

My injury is causing me serious problems. It’s gotten worse, and now running is next to impossible.

Day 47:

It’s finally Sunday – another week down. I’m living in constant pain now; the pills aren’t effective.

I can’t run at all and tomorrow is a required training event. I can only hope for some miracle to get me through it. Hopefully whatever this is won’t turn out to be something that will get me thrown out. I’ve gotten too far through this to fail now.

Day 48:

I finally went to Sick Call today. The pain was bad enough that in the morning I had to be here. I don’t want to admit defeat but my body seems to be failing me.

I’ve been sent to the hospital, which is a depressing experience. I want to be back in training rather than just wasting time, but many of the people here just seem to talk about wanting to go home and leaving the Army.

My day has felt surreal; just a series of waiting rooms and brief conversations with medical personnel with not much substance. You could set this place to a Dutch angle and intermittent lighting, and David Lynch would volunteer to direct my day.

This is definitely not what I was expecting my experience in BCT to be like. It turns out I’ve developed stress fractures at the top of both of my femurs, as well as “over-used” knees and ankles.

Day 49:

Today was another day at the Army hospital. Somber but organized – it’s really all I can compliment this place on.

It feels cliché that I’d make it so close to the end, only for something catastrophic to happen. It’s not like I told someone I was “two weeks from retirement” or something.

At the end of the day, I have some of the respect of my peers as well as their pity. I don’t want that. I just want to finish training.

I’ve been put in a “non-load bearing status” and confined to a wheelchair. To make things worse, I’ve been told I need surgery. They plan on putting two sets of pins on either side of my femoral heads because I’ve managed to fracture them both.

The doctor told me that I’ll have a month of leave followed by physical therapy for 4-6 months before I can go back to complete basic training. That’s my singular goal for the moment. Adversity seems to be a constant theme in my life, but the only way I know how to deal with it is to fight until I’ve overcome it.

My only goal at the moment is to get back to BCT and finish it.

 

This ends Kilroy Joins the Army – Part IX – Basic Training (BCT). Next time we’ll pick up where we left off, as Kilroy experiences life in Army Med Quarters. Stay tuned for Kilroy Joins the Army – Part X – Med Quarters.

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