Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XX – BCT 2

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.


Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XIX – BCT 2

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 XIX – BCT 2.

 

Day 261

Following the events of the two previous days, today was a low impact recovery day. The only activities assigned were weapons maintenance and preparation for the upcoming FTX [Field Training Exercise], which means we spent the entirety of the day locked up in a classroom.

The most noteworthy thing from today was a conversation with one of the Drill Sergeants about the status of the Army, training, and how Alpha’s methods were detrimental to our training. Another interesting note was that the Arabic music played during my first time through NIC (in Alpha Company) was apparently banned as being either racist or some form of unwanted brainwashing.

Day 262

Another Sunday, another end of the week. The additional sleep from the previous night comes as a boon, but many still seem tired. My mental state remains stable and my actions have become automatic.

It seems one of my previous cohorts has managed to reappear in FTC as a blue belt after having done her time as an injured person. [This means that she failed her final PT test after going back to BCT, which caused her to be sent back to FTC]. I didn’t really know that was even a possibility, but now that I do, I’ll continue to work to avoid it. I can’t imagine how it would be to return to that place in my condition. My only goal now is getting to Monterey.

Our Sunday went on as it always did in BCT: area beautification that is more designed to waste our time than to accomplish anything.

We’re all anticipating the upcoming field exercise for tomorrow. Organizationally, there’s no real consensus on half the stuff we really want to take. The oddity of this company comes from the fact that they expect us to bring one set of PT uniforms to wear in the field. I’m still not exactly sure what that entails for our activities out there.

Day 263

We had an AGR for morning PT before being bussed out to the FTX grounds, leaving us all even more tired than normal [AGR stands for Ability Group Run, which has the trainees running in formation at different speeds depending on the group’s capabilities].

The vast majority of the day’s activity consisted of digging and other maintenance of a hasty fighting position, a familiar task I carry no love for. After establishing our holes, we lay in them to the point of boredom and exhaustion, fading in and out of consciousness.

We spent the whole day in the holes, biding our time while the sun made its inexorable progress across the sky. I discussed my story, as well as the hip pain, with the platoon mate sharing the hole with me – he’s experiencing shooting hip pain down his leg.

The night was cold as I rushed to put a tent together. It’s a huge difference from the sleeping bags outdoors we used in Alpha Company. What a luxurious change of pace.

Day 264

Morning PT came as an annoying change in the field, starting the day with a pushup/situp drill. The poor sleep was no help to us as we did PT in the soft sand.

My friend who was having hip pain has gone to sick call, leaving myself and the other guy in the hole with us to carry his things from the sleeping ground down to the fox holes. The way this company seems to handle weapons and gear for sick call makes little sense – the battle buddy assigned to them must chaperone their things all day.

The day’s real content consisted of white phase testing, which was mostly just a review of materials I already had committed to memory. It included activities like M16 maintenance and use, radios, land nav, CLS lanes [Combat Lifesaver practice], and a single battle drill.

During the CLS lanes and the battle drill, our assigned squad leader froze while trying to manage the nine line medevac call and the squad communications, leaving me to walk her through it.

Afterwards, the buddy who went to sick call returned sporting a new set of crutches, just as predicted.

In an impromptu AAR [After Action Report] for the white phase testing, a conversation with the Drill Sergeant reaffirmed the fact that parts of Alpha’s training was superior to this one in the sense that we covered things there in earlier weeks that this company hadn’t even planned on covering.

The amusing activity for the day was when one of our DSs came through and ‘killed’ a number of people who were failing at pulling security and asking the challenge and answer password.

Day 265

Morning came too early and unwelcome, a light drizzle setting the mood for the day.

During the night, I had a shift of field fireguard, an activity which consisted of pacing circles around the campground and watching for potential mischief.

I was still saddled with the stuff belonging to the guy who went to sick call yesterday, which forced me to cart it down the hill to our platoon’s area of operations.

That was followed up with more field PT along with breakfast. Afterwards, we had our ruck march. The pace and safety precautions were a definite change from Alpha.

Halfway through the march it began to rain heavily. All of us concluded the march soaked down to the bone, and the only thing that saved this notebook from destruction was the MRE hot drink bag I shoved it into.

Lunch came slightly later, consisting of MREs.

Day 266

I was exhausted this morning. Everything about myself feels abused and completely worn out.

Morning PT passed without mention, the pain keeping me performing to any great standards.

After PT, we were rushed through chow and changing to a march out to the MSTF range - a medical simulation training facility - for review of tactical combat casualty care and how to run lanes of simulated casualty care.

Running the lanes with the squad I’m in was a disaster; no one was coordinated and many were simply not thorough enough in their actions to do what was required. The consensus as to the cause of this was the incompetence of our squad leader, who froze during the most chaotic sections.

We had a late lunch, followed by a march back. I remain exhausted, moments in the warm sunlight standing still almost putting me to sleep standing up

Up next is Bastogne – the US weapons section of training. They tell us we’ll be briefed about it today in preparation, but for the moment all that most of us seem to want is a good night’s sleep and enough calories for our bodies to repair themselves.

The open invitation from the WTRP [Warrior Training Rehabilitation Program] comes to mind – going in to sick call will guarantee me a profile for avoiding running or something else similarly meant to prevent re-injury. I want one, but I can’t bring myself to go in for it. Until the last foot march, I wasn’t actually experiencing any pain to write home about, but in these days following I’ve been experiencing some twinges that felt muscular in nature. I won’t be going in to get one until it hurts to stand again. As comfortable and familiar as I was with the FTC cadre and the way things ran there, I cannot afford to go back. My direction must be forward.

All I can do for the moment is look forward to Sunday. By that point, I’ll be solidly in blue phase and can mark it off as yet another small milestone in the brickwork of things I’ll never have to do again. This time I’ll get to the end of this journey and mark off the whole experience here in BCT as something I’ll never do again.

Do I regret how things have turned out? Of course. But I’ve met some good people and done some good things along the way. I can treasure at least some of the relationships and things I’ve witnessed. The bottom line comes straight out of those movie trailer tag lines: things will never be the same again.

Day 267

Twenty days left in this place and the others are counting down with excitement. In the meanwhile, exhaustion is the name of the game. We were woken up earlier than expected and rushed out to the PT field for morning exercise in our ACUs before being bussed to the Bastogne training range.

Our first meal was rushed to an extreme degree, and then all of us were sent to the range bleachers for the live fire demonstrations. The explosions of the M203 and AT4 grenades and rockets seemed underwhelming from the distance we were at.

After being organized and sent onto the ranges, actually firing the machine guns and explosive launchers really did come across as too fast and fairly underwhelming.

The training rounds for the M203 and AT4 were as unimpressive as could be. The belts of the MGs flew through them without much ado.

We left the range at 11AM and spent the rest of the day lazing about in the classroom cleaning the weapons we shot, as well as our personally assigned rifles.

Day 268

Today we had Remagen – grenades for live fire. We were told to gather in ACUs for the morning, eschewing PT for once. My mood feels slightly rejuvenated now after a small moment of Zen the previous night. It was the comforting feeling of being exactly where I need to be and doing exactly what I needed to do.

I qualified for the live grenade toss the first go round, but chicken winged my throw, ending up with a label on my helmet like a scarlet letter.

After more waiting came the briefing and transportation to the real grenade bunker – the same throwing sequence, just with lives on the line this time.

Herded into the tiny staging area, we were made to place our heads and feet up against the wall while waiting to go, and then shuffling along the wall. The task was made incredibly uncomfortable by the body armor and camelback we were wearing, causing all of us to stand distended at an awkward angle the entire time we waited.

Arriving at the receiving point with two live grenades pressed against my chest, there was yet more waiting to ready and stage for the blast lane. The sound of each explosion rocked the old bunker, sounding like thunder, with occasional pieces of shrapnel falling upon the roof like hail.

The actual throw and blast from my own grenades turned out to be as underwhelming as my experience thus far. Despite the proximity, I couldn’t even feel the shockwave from where I crouched after throwing them. Just like that, it was all over. Two grenades and then back into the bunker to suffer standing in line ad nauseam.

The whole company cycled through quickly and we were done in the early afternoon, coming back to a day full of weapons cleaning and the written portion of the white phase testing that displayed the same characteristics of Army academics I’ve come to expect here.

Converting over from FTC back to BCT has put me into an Erlenmeyer flask, isolating me from most relationships and the world at large.

Day 269

My PT score currently stands at better than AIT standards: 51 pushups, 68 sit-ups, and 16:17 run time, which is a comforting result considering how worried I’ve been about passing and risking falling back to hell.

After lunch, we wasted time doing area beautification in the growing heat before being gathered together to do the trifecta of dinner, haircuts, and a trip to the small PX here.

Prior to dinner, we were correctively trained for someone’s family member communicating a personal joke on the company’s Facebook page. The DSs took this as both insult and a breach of OPSEC for being called “grilled sausage” and spent 30 minutes wasting our time with more exercises.

Day 270

I awoke today with a special status as part of the detail for setting up the hand grenade qualification course. Arriving at the site was deja vu, the memories of when I first returned to Alpha Company from sick quarters.

Setting up the course was a relatively easy task, placing dummy bodies and stacks of training fuses at each particular station.

After running the course once, I relieved a set of people manning a station and spent the rest of the time re-fusing the dummies. The cleanup took up the rest of our time on the range, explosives accountability creating its own host of problems. Rejoining the main group left us waiting almost two hours for transportation. “Hurry up and wait” was the name of the game today.

Dinner led straight into even more training – dry fire runs of the theoretical live fire we should have been doing. Never in my life have I yelled the word “bang” more often without actually playing Cops and Robbers. The wait became needlessly long to cycle everyone through dry fire practice.

Day 271

At last, the day of Omaha [Live Fire Exercise].

The range has been revamped in a way that it all seems unfamiliar. Gone are the eclectic obstacles of broken concrete walls and burnt out cars, even the concrete bunker housed at the end of the course. Instead, this new range has been sanitized with simple wooden obstacles and that same accursed orange sand that clings to everything. This company runs blanks followed by live rounds, an almost unnecessary exercise that feels like time wasting, especially in comparison to how Alpha ran it.

By the end of the first run with blanks, that fine orange sand had already coated everything, inside and out. I got to inhale some of the dust on the low crawl.

Afterwards, before the first live fire run, we were forced to attend CLS concurrent training hosted by other sergeants.

The weather returned to familiar territory as the temperature escalated drastically. Un-blousing our ACUs is an act that still reminds me of all the summer days I spent here.

This company served us ‘juice’, the same sugary electrolyte engineered drink [It’s what plants crave] we have with our meals as a means of maintaining our water retention.

The pain and soreness I currently have feel skin-crawlingly familiar to the initial issues I had those months ago. We have precious little in the way of training events left and I must continue to function until I can make it to the end. After all is said and done, even if it’s another injury, at least having all of my qualifying events completed will allow me to change my status.

 

This ends Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XIX – BCT 2. The next entry concludes the series as it follows Kilroy through the completion of his second round of Basic Training. Stay tuned for Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XX – BCT 2.


Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XVIII – BCT 2

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 XVIII – BCT 2.

 

Day 246

I’ve been dropped right back into it. I’m being assigned to Echo Company, in the care of 2nd platoon, as they complete their fourth week of BCT.

From what I’ve seen so far here, the level of harshness associated with daily life is nowhere near what it used to be back in Alpha Company.

My time in FTC is over, and now I can proceed onward. I went from being unable to walk without the assistance of crutches to being able to passably run. I will get better. This is the eventuality. I’ll learn and I’ll move on.

Moving into my new living quarters here was easy, but I’ve not yet been issued the training equipment I need – I’m waiting on a weapon, a ruck, a helmet, etc.

My new company is currently doing rifle marksmanship, condensed in such a way that my previous experience with night shooting has become obsolete here.

Day 247

We started the day off with a PT test. My scores are up past AIT standard and I’m sure by the final one I’ll be fine. It’s a turnaround from how I felt about all this before.

In the meanwhile, I’m still waiting to be assigned any equipment.

My leg has gotten better, but it’s not the same as it used to be.

After our test, we were given breakfast at the local DFAC. The food is the same, but the local companies seem to actually pull KP [Kitchen Patrol].

This company has a very different feel from Alpha. The time given to eat doesn’t seem to be that bad – that or my habit has adjusted to incorporate it.

After breakfast, we spent time in the brigade classroom, which is a huge upgrade from the setup of the 1-34th battalion. The day drags on though.

Day 248

Up early for the final shift of fireguard. For some reason I feel a little bit sick – nauseated in my stomach after a night of dreams I can’t remember. My sleep has been light in recent days and I pop awake without much prompting.

The Drill Sergeants told me I’d be going out to the range with the company and doing minor details while the rest shoot to qualify.

[Later in the day, Kilroy continues below].

I spent the majority of my time writing a 2,000 word essay that was assigned to the platoon shortly before my arrival.

After lunch we were taken out, formed up, and made to clean the company area. Once that was done, we practiced drill and ceremony as a company before dinner.

We’ve told we’ll be going to the LOMAH range tomorrow [Location of Miss and Hit. As it sounds it’s basically a range that detects whether or not the shooter hit or missed their target].

This company is running an obligatory laundry service so my pay is probably being docked without my consent. I feel no real loyalty to the company so far; my peers are in that young and rebellious phase of their lives. One of the few people I enjoy talking to is a national security advisor to a state senator.

Day 249

We headed out to the LOMAH range with the sky overcast and a warning of rain. Without my equipment, I just wait, told I would be assigned to random details. The weather has cooled down some; the overcast coolness making the experience more comfortable than my last time here.

I wish that I could have finished BCT with Alpha Company. I haven’t taken much of a shine to this latest group.

Later in the day, after returning from the range, we were given our phones for the rare opportunity to make a 10 minute phone call. This never would’ve happened back in Alpha. Oddly enough this all comes directly on the heels of FTC, so it doesn’t feel all that cathartic. The others who haven’t done this before are rejoicing over the perceived privilege. I’ve been in this environment for far too long.

I sit and wait while my new platoon-mates clean their weapons, having not been issued one of my own.

This place is different than it was in Alpha. The building is new, but constructed in a strangely older style. The halls are narrow and a vast majority of our taught activities are conducted in 4 classrooms along the ground floor. The sizes of the bays are also smaller, 20 to 30 people in comparison to Alpha’s 60. The mood here is significantly quieter and somehow more annoying. All the members of my platoon have taken on the attitude of complete silence that some of the DSs find value in. We’re expected to know the Army Song here, something that we didn’t have to care about in Alpha.

My conversations with the national security analyst tell me that there’s minor upheaval in the upper echelons of the military concerning the way training is conducted.

With the easier standards, and my preparation in FTC, I find myself less tired during the day.

Another night of fireguard comes and goes quickly, the single hour shift flying by in comparison to the FTC standard two hour shift. By the time I’m done with my share of the cleaning duties and the tasks that I needed to do, there is no time left to be spent at the desk set up for fireguard. The announced schedule here is actually what is adhered to, so our 4:30 AM wakeup is a true time. This differs from Alpha’s times actually requiring you to do everything 30 minutes in advance.

Day 250

Morning PT was moderately tough. It was comprised of core, conditioning, and climbing, followed by pushups and sit-ups.

Today is another range day and I’m wondering what I’ll be doing. My only responsibilities for the time being are to show up in the right places, do PT, and breathe.

The range has single targets, and while the rest of my company goes to shoot, I’m left to wait playing the role of air guard, staring up at the sky watching for aircraft.

In the course of running errands, I accompanied an injured trainee to the hospital, bearing witness to the places I had been, seeing an injured trainee from who-knows-where dressed in full basic regalia – dirty, tattered ACUS, crutches, and a pack that lolled to the side. Staring out forlornly from behind dirty eye protection, he looked like an abandoned puppy waiting for a mother that would never come. It’s a reminder of where I’ve been and how far I’ve come. I’ll exceed the standard and continue to improve.

Day 251

I’m up again for the same shift of fireguard. It’s like a twisted sense of déjà vu. In the usual cleaning duties we end up having to sweep up and mop the laundry. Tonight’s challenge is complements of a DS that dumped a bag of laundry detergent all over the floor since someone forgot it in there. If they actually wanted to keep the place clean they wouldn’t just dump out the contents of every bag.

I’ve been asked to skip PT in the morning to accompany someone who’s exiting the army – a process I’ve become too familiar with.

Given my status, I was pulled from PT to help guard weapons and watch one of the chapters and a con-leave.

Walking around this morning set off a pain in my hip that I hadn’t felt in a long time. If it gets worse I’ll have to struggle through it until I can at least get to the next phase.

The day’s training was cut short on account of rain. EST was as it always was, full of sand and suffering [Engagement Skills Trainer]. My role was to stand guard of the weapons. As the rain began to fall, I was given a poncho to borrow but told not to use the hood. The march out wasn’t horrible, or at least not as horrible as other experiences I’ve had.

Day 252

The cold has returned. After morning PT, we were bussed out to the range in a chill. We’re still in a place that I’ve been to before, leaving me unable to do anything of value. It’s cold enough that it makes it hard to write, my hands feeling numb.

I still don’t have any gear and my time is allocated to staring at the sky, waiting for low flying aircraft as part of range aircraft guard. It strikes me that my time back here in this company is like seeing a foreign remake of a television show that I’ve seen already. Everything is approximately the same – but different in ways that bug me slightly. Like I’m somehow both unsatisfied with their choice of casting as well as the fact that the general direction of the show seems repetitive.

After finishing the range time, we spent the rest of the day watching SHARP videos [Sexual Harassment/Assault Response & Prevention] on YouTube and cleaning weapons.

Sitting on the sidelines, I watched the platoon descend into bickering after dinner, the Senior Drill Sergeant assigning us new student leadership as a means of singling out our trouble makers.

Day 253

It’s Friday morning and time for the company to prequalify on marksmanship. Despite promises that I’d have gear assigned to me already, I’ve yet to be issued a weapon. I have a feeling I’ll be stuck shooting an unzeroed weapon.

I anxiously plan ahead to try and keep myself in shape, or in a condition bearing similarity to it. FTC received too many people from here and I don’t want to end up being one of them this cycle. I can only imagine how that would go down.

I find myself back at the same range I qualified on previously, except now the setting is covered in fog. It’s like an M. Night Shyamalan movie this time, the distantly familiar graffiti almost nostalgic.

I take my place on the sidelines again, watching others shoot as I wait for the day to progress.

Day 254

The morning comes too soon and PT today is a muscle failure workout. I feel nauseated and a general sense of malaise. My thoughts are scattered and still not quite on track. After breakfast I was finally issued a weapon, an M16A2. The rifle belonged to another person who’s leaving for con leave. Funny how things come full circle.

After receiving my rifle, I was taken out to the same range from the other day and told to zero. With nothing to do immediately afterward, I was given the opportunity to shoot an M4 with a CCO [Close Combat Optic, basically a red-dot sight] before we do ARM [Advanced Rifle Marksmanship] along with the other trainees who are here. Considering it’s been like 6-8 months since my last experience with live rounds, I don’t think I did too poorly.

I spoke to the commander of this company. It turns out that I’ve been at Ft. Jackson longer than he’s been in charge of this command. It’s a strange feeling.

The whole company has qualified and now that I have issued equipment I’ll be joining the company in regular training. We practiced Omaha lanes, grenades, and barricade shooting out at the PT field.

Laundry and clean clothes are becoming a luxury commodity again.

Day 255

Sunday again. Another week down and the end of the journey still feels like it’s a long way away. They bussed us past a PX yesterday with complete food court, and I realized that I recognized the smell of the food they were serving but couldn’t identify what exactly it was.

The day’s activities start with a voluntary PT session I chose to attend – I’ll continue to work on my running as I await the next test.

After lunch, we were made to do area beautification before being lined up to go to the PX and get haircuts.

The activity afterward was cut short by a thunderstorm and tornado warning to the area, followed up pouring rain. Due to the weather, we were made to wait in the DFAC as the torrential rain came down.

Day 256

This morning was slightly different than most. There was no PT today, as everyone had to head to Reception for deferred issue to get dress uniforms.

Since I’d already received my uniform, I spent the day sitting around and waiting for everyone else. My company for the day is a handful of non-trainers.

At midmorning we were made to lay out the company’s rifles for a 100% accountability check. A menial task, but nothing to really complain about.

Earlier yesterday, we received a platoon transfer for personal reasons – someone that seems to be widely regarded by cadre and trainee alike as being both incompetent and bizarre. Personally I find her reminiscent of a troll doll from the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Lunch was another MRE followed by restacking the weapons.

Day 257

The day has been busy, morning PT and chow took us straight into activities and training related to the upcoming NIC course. [Night Infiltration Course].

Full battle rattle this time is stifling; I was given an IBA and a helmet a size too small, making it that much more difficult to breathe [‘Full battle rattle’ refers to his full set of infantry gear]. Low and high crawling practice led into a march to EST where we did CCO shooting practice.

I’m here burning out the last of my patience, watching the whole dynamic of the group imploding the same way I’ve seen it before. I can’t bring myself to care all that much. I’ve seen it before and it’ll play out the same way it always does.

Day 258

Up at night for a CQ shift. The assignment is a quick, though Sisyphean, task of mopping the common lobby and hallway. Walking through parts of the building elicits memories of a certain mustiness – the smell so common to commercial airliners.

My assigned buddy nods off with a special kind of dedication while the NCO on duty watches Game of Thrones in the background.

Day 259

It’s been a fairly low impact day thus far. After morning PT, we were promised live fire range time later in the evening. Since then, it has been nothing but weapons cleaning and personal study. The company doesn’t seem as prepared as Alpha did – there are portions of classroom instruction that have not been covered here but had already been completed a week prior during my first time through BCT.

The night shoot was not as impressive as last time. This company didn’t have tracers or some of the luxuries that Alpha had. However, this time around I was able to see through the NODs properly and use the laser sight effectively.

Day 260

Up early as usual, though we had less sleep than normal because last night’s shoot.

Everyone else seems to be concerned about the upcoming Confidence Course and the NIC crawl. I just want to get it over with. Once this day is done I’ll be caught up to where I was in training before I got injured.

The Confidence Course was new, but not particularly amazing. We were scheduled for five walls: the skyscraper, Jacob’s ladder, a zip line thing, and an inverted rope challenge.

Of those, we only did the skyscraper, Jacob’s ladder, and the inverted rope. Movement to the course was a foot march, which was an uncomfortable experience thanks to my improperly fitted gear, rifles held at port arms, and a renewed heat. The weather has definitely taken a turn for the worse, but I cannot tell how hot it really is.

After eating, and the sun going down hours later, we were herded to the event area in our platoons. The actual crawl seemed to go by faster this time, only hampered by the stricter buddy guidance rules here. The whole experience was a near repeat of my last time doing the NIC, save for the lack of firing exercises and the complexity of the activities at the end.

I’m up and awake from 3:00 AM - 4:00 AM for CQ, taking care to look at least a little bit alive while my partner seems to drift in and out of consciousness. In reality, I’d like to do the same. I’m the most exhausted I’ve been since showing up here, and getting myself downstairs to this place of duty is the hardest thing for the night.

All of us here brought back enough of the sand from the NIC that the floor in the bay has become beach-like. Thanks to our sweeping duties and the clothing and equipment we were wearing, we’re covered in the moon-dust like grit that still clings to all of us. Truly it’s back to the old motto of “Join the army, eat sand.

 

This ends Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XVIII – BCT 2. The next entry in the series continues with Kilroy going through his second round of Basic Training. Stay tuned for Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XIX – BCT 2.


Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XVII – FTC

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 XVII – FTC.

 

Day 151

The flight out from home was yesterday at 1 PM, landed at 9 PM EST, and caused me to lose three hours with the time change. By the time I was on a bus headed back to South Carolina, it was already 10 PM. We arrived at the node after 1.5 hours of driving, but once there it was another opportunity to sit and wait. It took over 3 hours to get us all processed back in and make it to the barracks.

An hour and 45 minutes of sleep later, I am waiting for my urinalysis. Conflicting feelings about being here aren’t so obvious this time around. The return was an eventuality; something that had to happen in order to continue. The lack of sleep wears on me less these days, conditioned by the wear and tear that somehow has just become another part of life.

Day 156

A day that was otherwise unremarkable became a bit arduous. Having discovered I have a typewriter, the Drill Sergeant on duty decided to indulge his photography hobby and used me and my typewriter as the subjects. We spent a fairly large amount of time photographing the machine in various places and conditions. The whole experience was strange to me, a long series of moments that had me in the uncomfortable position of having my picture taken. Seeing the world underneath the theater is interesting; the perspective I’ve gained changing the core character of the experience.

Day 161

I’ve made progress finally. Today, I finalized my movement into the 1st part of 2nd platoon. With my new assignment comes new responsibilities for PT and a new colored belt, as well as new NCOs directly in charge of me.

Progress feels good. For now I’m simply trying to do better and be better.

Day 162

A hectic day capped by annoyance and a significant change of pace. The vast majority of my day was spent dealing with problems that weren’t my own.

After breakfast, a couple of us volunteered to go with a friend who was being reentered into training, carrying his things to help him get there. Instead of a clean drop off, we were stuck with him as paperwork messes occurred that required us to bring him back to the company, then lug stuff there, and then back again.

The crux of the issue rested on a nonexistent brigade policy memo that required his packet to have the leave form that let him go on Christmas leave. Checking in with brigade proved fruitless and then a few hours later something cleared it up. After dropping him off at his new battalion, it wasn’t long until I was called again to be on the post flag detail to learn the ins and outs of the ceremony before we assume duties on the coming Monday. The whole selection for this duty seems like an egregious waste of time, about as useful as greeting cards.

After a short period of personal time, the night was filled with yet more work. One of the DS staff requested my help with an online college course - Native American History - allowing me stay up until 2 AM to help him complete that. Hopefully the work I continue to do will net me a few favors here.

Day 168

Sleep remains elusive. The duties I’ve been assigned have robbed me of my time at both ends of the candle. Earlier wake up takes away my sleep, and duties as Student 1SG make it so my own down time throughout the day is filled with obligations rather than time to decompress.

Coming back into more difficult exercises leaves my body aching, but I can deal with it. Healing up is my priority.

Day 188

My recovery is progressing well; the range of movement in my injury side is close to how it should be. Sitting cross-legged has become easy again, and the strength in my leg is definitely improving. The only issue for the moment is my balance, but that will get better with practice and time.

The day seems to be full of annoyances. Trying to exchange my boots has left me stuck waiting at Reception.

Day 197

Today began with a cold that ate at our souls. The morning clocked in at 18° F.

My follow up appointment is today. I’ll be moved back to a status that will leave me cleared to run again. What a long road this has been. Soon enough I’ll be back into training and on my way outward and upward.

Day 203

My illness has progressed; I have a hacking cough and the feeling of mucus in my lungs to complement it.

Morning workouts and classes had an intensity that wore me down today. Even spin class, which normally comes as the most fun I have during the week, came across as a chore.

The high point of the day came in the discussion of the research CSF2 [Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness] is doing. They’ve taken my BCT journal and said that they want to include selections as part of an academic paper they’re working on with respect to the psychology of Basic Training.

Day 204

The day began as aggravatingly as predicted. I was tired for the morning workout, my illness preventing me from performing at full capacity. I ran my first consistent mile today since arriving at FTC. I feel accomplished but also paranoid. The pain has returned, like it did a few months ago, and it makes me think back to that research I read the other day. Apparently my injury is prone to bone death occurring in the affected bones, which would be catastrophic.

Day 214

I’ve passed my PT test. I’m still in pain though, and orthopedics wants me to have some more downtime before sending me back into training.

They want me to wait two weeks and then we’ll see if I can move on. I’m surprisingly not worried about it now.

Oddly enough, there’s no joy in this success.

My body is better now, still in pain, but capable of more than I was before. They say the pain will fade and my recovery will be guaranteed. For once I’m believing them.

With my success on the PT test, I’ve found good cause to relieve myself of the duties of Student 1SG. In truth I haven’t actually been doing it for terribly long, but I’ll be gaining a lot of personal time by not having to be responsible for those duties anymore.

Moving on from here will be interesting. At the latest, I will be dumped back into week 5 of BCT. That leaves 3 weeks of real training and another of out-processing.

My goal for the time being is the same: get to language school.

Day 219

The weekend has arrived, and there’s a feeling of mild anxiety for those of us who have passed our PT tests. We were told to pack and be ready for anything. I don’t know exactly what’s in store for me, but my order from orthopedics should prevent me from being shipped for at least another week or so.

Day 221

Today was a run day for PT again and my speed was hampered by the odd feeling of the pins in my legs during the run. I need to do it more to get the results I want, but the individual development of my pain seems to hold me back.

Thankfully, after PT we got some free time.

Day 228

I had my doctor’s appointment in orthopedics this morning. I received my RTD [Return to Duty] from orthopedics and was told to wait out the rest of the week. The other fun point of this trip to the hospital was reuniting with a friend. The day was otherwise nothing to write home about.

Day 234

The weather has become our greatest, seemingly psychotic enemy. The temperature fell below freezing overnight, causing tensions to rise throughout the company and ended up with one of ours running amok and going AWOL.

He ran away from the battalion area and across post to his old BCT unit. Apparently he had some sort of mental break.

Day 236

The majority of my day has been spent attempting to avoid things and duties, running around finding various tasks to keep me away from my usual activities. The graduate status has given me more leeway to do things.

A trip to sick call to pick up a simple pack of seasonal allergy medicine instead turned into a medical examination. It led me to discover that my problem with hypertension has returned and now the military will be paying to cover it.

Day 238

Exercise feels good most of the time now, and I enjoy the work outs we do.

My problem comes with the medication they’ve placed me on. It prevents me from raising my blood pressure for exercise, which has killed the effectiveness of my cardio and causes me concern. I know I can pass, the problem is that I’ll need to abandon the guidance from the PAs [Physician’s Assistants] to do so.

Spin class was made supremely miserable by this complication. The rest of the day was spent without much action.

Day 245

I’ve been told that there won’t be any more clinic activity for me. I was instructed to stop attending clinic based exercises. I’ve also been told that I’ll be reentering training tomorrow.

So it begins again.

My preparations should take me through to the end, and this time the challenges I face will be familiar to me.

Going back again will be a strange feeling – as I’ve been told by the CSF2 folks, I’m almost an outsider to the entire process now. I’ll continue to document and write for reporting.

 

This ends Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XVII – FTC. The next entry in the series will have Kilroy back at BCT for his second round. Stay tuned for Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XVIII – BCT 2.


Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XVI – FTC

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 XVI – FTC.

 

Day 123

I’m up at midnight yet again, pulling a CQ shift. Just waiting for it to be over.

Today they did an inspection of our personal items and lockers, checking to see if we had contraband in our possession. My personal notebooks received extra inspection; the senior drill sergeant read the rough draft of my letter to the commander concerning the mass punishment of the company. [Kilroy drafted a letter to the commander in response to the company having had their personal books taken away. He didn’t send it since they ended up giving them back their stuff]. The reactions on his face were amusing, shifting between states of surprise and shock. Now they know that there’s someone who is taking note of their own policy memos and actions with a higher level of detail.

Day 124

Our exercise today was conducted with 2nd platoon; it was the first time we had Pool PT. My swimming form has slipped some since high school, but even with my injury I still do pretty well in the water.

All of us are looking forward to the few days we will have off for Christmas leave.

Day 125

It’s Wii Wednesday again and I had my first physical therapy clinic session today. I’m actually drained for once, physically. The variety of exercises I did yesterday have left me pretty sore and tired.

Day 126

Someone hired me to write something that compares Alice in Wonderland to being in the Army.

Day 127

Things are different today. We’ve been shuttled out to the Joe E. Mann center to purchase our flights home. Thankfully the military system has better pricing this time around; I’m flying out in the morning for less than I thought I would be paying.

The cost of taking a shuttle from base to the airport and from the airport to my house, and all of that back again, will rack up expenses, but thankfully my savings continue to build in the meantime.

Day 128

This is the final Saturday before my leave begins. Meanwhile, I’m working a shift of staff duty for four hours of the morning.

A point of interest: we had a SHARP investigation occur. [SHARP stands for Sexual Harassment/Assault Response & Prevention].

There was an FOB Chinese guy in the barracks who had been taking a bunch of notes on how he was being harassed by another trainee. That night, the trainee who was doing the harassing did something that sent the Chinese guy over the edge.

Consequently, the Chinese guy reported him to the EO/SHARP representative, which caused the investigation to take place. They took the accused and moved him out of the building.

I was questioned, along with other witnesses, by the battalion SHARP representative about the various incidents that were reported. The ones I witnessed were the accused helicoptering his penis at the Chinese guy in the locker rooms during Pool PT.

The next day I was interviewed again by a 1LT that had been pulled in to be the investigating officer.

A week later, the 1LT came back and told me that the accused had accused me of lying in my statement, so I had to fill out more forms reasserting my statements.

Since there was such a large body of evidence against the accused trainee, they ruled against him and that was the end of it with regards to my involvement.

Day 129

The cold has reached a new extreme; a chill swept through that barracks that was so cold that it woke us all up.

We’ve been given our phones back and offered the chance to come to a Christmas concert. Like a fool, I accepted the offer for a change of pace. Luckily, the actual concert was a bit of a treat. With a performance by the 282nd band, the higher ups wished us a good leave and sent us on our way.

Day 130

Most people are preparing themselves for the upcoming break with checks of uniform and luggage. They tell us that we need to take an assault pack, but since we haven’t been issued one we must buy our own. However, some of the DS staff claim that our bags may be appropriate. The entire affair is a mess, like most military issues, making personal management an impossible affair.

I had my first spin class today – for those that don’t know, it’s a cardio workout that involves stationary bikes being led by one of the cadre staff. It was hosted in a racquetball room with the lights turned down and music blaring under the hypnotic flashing of dance lights. In all, it was an enjoyable experience but intense in its own strange way.

Day 131

It’s been an aggravating day, mostly with regards to miscommunication.

After morning PT, we were forced to wait behind a company that was still processing through because of some issue. That delay rolled us into being late for more appointments, but before I could even go to those, someone informed me that my CQ shift had been swapped.

Back at the company, someone informed me that someone else would relieve our shift so we could go attend our appointments. After heading over to the therapy center, we found no one waiting and had to go to battalion HQ to see if the briefing was still happening.

As soon as we got to battalion HQ, the student leadership told us to go back to therapy and come back in an hour. An hour later, we were back at battalion HQ and we were told we needed to wait for 30 minutes prior to going to a briefing concerning our leave.

Some bureaucratic craziness has changed our dress for leave into dress uniforms, something I consider to be obnoxious. Setting up the uniforms has been its own kind of a pain, mostly concerned with getting little shiny bits aligned with arbitrary dimensions.

Day 132

A Wii Wednesday, though a bit different from the rest. Since much of the staff is winding down for the upcoming break, many of the previously hurt people rejoined us for our usual cardio goofiness.

Day 133

Break is so close I can almost taste it. Our scheduling has become different, with more people joining the injury platoon for morning PT. My follow up at orthopedics brings good news and progress. I hope to be better healed come the new year so I can drag myself out of this hole. Our bay has begun accepting additional people now with more to come as the day wears on.

Day 134

Operations have already begun shutting down. Those who were leaving by personal vehicle are gone by noon. In their absence, the rest of us are organized into different ‘chalks’ scheduling our departure.

We are reshuffled from a mass formation and dragged into the barracks I was previously staying in, landing me on the far side of the room from where I was before.

During the organizational formation I took a knee to relieve discomfort in my hip only to be called out by a 1SG , and then I was accosted by a SSG regarding a profile they insisted was expired. [The profile in this case refers to Kilroy’s medical profile which determines what he’s able to do physically].

Despite my protests, they told me to stand, but acquiesced a few moments later when one of the staff from FTC told them about my condition.

Day 135

Finally, it’s the day we head home for break.

We are double checked and put in a room to wait for our bus rides out to our travel hubs.

The hub itself is within the main gym at the Solomon Center, where there’s a massive logistical planning effort to slowly trickle us all out to coach lines to our respective destinations.

My airport ends up being an hour and a half away in North Carolina. The flight leaves me with the time to suck down and enjoy the first coffee I’ve had in a month, while trying to avoid the dog and pony show of the USO filming the festivities.

I seem to have adjusted to the military sleep scheduling once more, barely sleeping during the night and barely sleeping on the flight home. Maybe I’m simply anxious to get out of my dress uniform and be home.

 

This ends Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XVI – FTC. Next we’ll wrap up with Kilroy’s time in the Fitness Training Company. It will be a bit different from previous articles in that it won’t be a continuous block of days, but rather a series of highlights from his next few months in FTC. Stay tuned for Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XVII – FTC.


Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XV – FTC

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 XV – FTC.

 

Day 112

Today is Thanksgiving Day. Not sure what I’m supposed to be feeling thankful for. I guess it’s good that I seem to be healing okay.

Day 113

Our day was pretty uneventful today. We wasted time by taking someone out to the hospital (I was his battle buddy), only to find out the people he needed to see didn’t come in to work because of the holiday.

Last night’s sleep was interrupted by some vivid dreams that left me feeling exhausted today.

Day 114

We’re all in a pretty bad mood today. An hour before we went to bed last night, the cadre put out a message to confiscate our personal books, magazines, etc.

This leaves me with just my writing materials and not much else. The morale of the others has fallen to an all-time low, some even saying this is their final straw and they’ve started planning their exit strategy.

Thanks to someone’s ineptitude, we’ve been assigned cleaning duties all around the company for the day. They didn’t make it clear to us why they’re having us do it, so it turned out to mostly be a tremendous waste of time. Even after finishing cleaning stuff, they told us that we were still supposed to be cleaning, so we just kept cleaning already clean things.

Day 115

This is the final Sunday of the month. Counting the weeks doesn’t really help anymore.

Since it’s a free day, the majority of people here elected to go to church services.

Sadly, instead of a long weekend break that rejuvenates the spirit, the punishments we received with no clear reason why have left us all feeling aggravated.

Everyone seems quite sullen; their entertainment taken away, people just sit around talking idly.

Day 116

My day starts at 3:00 AM with a charge of quarters shift. What an illustrious military career I’ve had thus far.

It’s not a good sign when my day-to-day life leaves me fantasizing of a future where I no longer have to live like this, considering it’s my choice to be here.

Otherwise, I continue to write, sleeping uneasily and waking to the same dulled reality I’ve come to accept, counting the days until I can go home for winter break.

I feel a certain amount of strength returning to my leg, but after the moderate usage it’s had lately, the pain response is still worrisome.

My day proceeds with more of the same, accompanying another person to the hospital to waste time.

The Alpha Company reject who I referenced earlier (National Guard girl) has given in to the Army’s desire to med-board her out. I don’t know why I’m so attached to her success, but it saddens me to see her give up. I guess it’s just depressing to see people I came in with drop out.

Day 117

The most interesting thing about the others in RHU [Reception Holding Unit] and FTC are actually the badges and tape from their BCT companies that people left on their camelbacks like the faded banners of our former masters. None of us care to remove them, and our current prison doesn’t seem to care that we still wear them.

Day 118

It’s Wii Wednesday again. That means the exercise today is fairly light and I’m glad for an easier day. Thankfully, my leg is improving noticeably; it has gotten stronger and has greater range of motion. My flexibility remains much higher than most will aspire to, so I’m not worried about that for the moment.

Today’s schedule seems off. We had an early lunch that finished before noon, and that threw us all off. Turns out they had us do everything early today so we wouldn’t run into the new recruits in Army Reception.

Later, we were herded in to fill out a series of DA Form 31s to request leave for winter break. We spent the afternoon doing more PT with the Wii.

Day 119

I’m definitely feeling like I’m in Groundhog Day; every day has the same schedule, the same food, and no variation except that we’ve lost a few of our members who are headed back to training.

Needless to say, I’m envious of the people leaving. However, even with them leaving, our ranks swell with more members, a majority of them having failed their PT tests and are here for a chance at redemption.

It’s not so much that I’ve found a rhythm here, but more so that I’ve become dulled to the life in this place.

We’ve begun to get the paperwork for our leave sorted out, logging it into the system. Our time is definitely not well spent.

Day 120

I’ve been assigned a follow up appointment with my doctor; at least it breaks the monotony here.

Those of us who want to improve and move on tend to segregate ourselves from the people who just failed and want to leave, choosing to try to focus on our own healing.

My progress is going a bit slower than I’d like. The next step will be weaning myself off the cane, and then after the winter break I’ll start working on moving around normally again.

Day 121

It’s the weekend again. I had a nonsensical dream last night where I dreamed I was in a cave fashioned into a banquet hall; the tables we sat at were made from large slabs of stone. I sat across from a bright red ogre that was somehow friendly.

We feasted and discussed something that I can’t remember. The hall was full of people, but I’m unsure what sort of folk they were. Halfway through the meal I said something, touching a central placement on the table and caused a bunch of perfectly round boulders to fall from the ceiling, striking me in the head. Someone spoke, asking “Why must he pay the price for this?” I was still conscious, but completely unable to move. More boulders fell and the dream ended, presumably in my death. Weird stuff.

Day 122

Another Sunday; a completely worthless metric to gauge my passage of time. We have don’t much of anything today. I’ve spent my time trying to connect to the internet. My service provider can’t manage to penetrate the Fallout vault that is our barracks.

Luckily, we got our books back after we complained a bunch. I finished one Jack Reacher novel and started another, and I’ve made progress in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. I’ve written very little in the past few days.

My night continues into the next day; a CQ shift to take over for the people who are taking the PT test tomorrow. The sleep I was able to get in between shifts was not fulfilling.

 

This ends Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XV – FTC. Next time we’ll pick up where we left off, as Kilroy continues his time in the Fitness Training Company. Stay tuned for Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XVI – FTC.

 


Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XIV – FTC

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 XIV – FTC.

 

Day 103

Finally got moved over to actual FTC [Fitness Training Company] today. Otherwise, the day has gone by without much activity.

So far, they inventoried our issued items twice and gave us new bunks in the facility across the street. They also took away access to our phones now, so I guess it’s back to writing letters.

I’ve been issued a bright orange belt to wear with my uniform, designating me as part of a platoon full of broken people. From here, I can focus on rebuilding the strength in my legs and passing the PT test that will allow me to go back to BCT.

A random thought that came to mind: who makes the shitty green blankets that we’re issued? It seems to be a common supplier for the rest of the Army.

My initial impression of the FTC makes it seem like a lower stress training unit that may actually allow me to train and recover properly.

I’m noticing a theme for my military career so far – trying to just keep moving forward. The motto of the 1-34th was “Always Forward” and now forward progress is all I seek. Here I’ve been assigned to a platoon called the ‘Spartans’.

Day 104

Tonight is my first night in the FTC and I’ve already been assigned the shittiest fire guard shift. I’ll be allowed to sleep at 9 PM but I’ve been given a 3:00 AM report time for fire guard.

To wrap up yesterday’s summary, we were checked into our new accommodations, our bags were taken from us, and then we were sent to do some workouts. Spending a few hours in the gym let the time pass a little more easily, but working out my upper body muscles for the first time since my leg surgery has caused them to be sore and twitchy during the night.

The positioning of my bunk makes it so I’m exposed to the light from the door to the latrines as well as a cold, unforgiving breeze from the outside that comes down right onto my head.

As far as the condition of my leg goes, I still feel pain relatively consistently, though I hope it will be alleviated in due time. Otherwise, while I look forward to putting in the work to get myself back to fighting form, right now I’m more focused on getting to leave during Christmas Exodus. While it’s true that I literally just got back recently, I look forward to enjoying more time off.

Oddly enough, despite some of the stuff they did wrong, old Alpha Company 1-34 seems to have inspired a very extreme sense of loyalty. Many of us still speak about it in a moderately positive or neutral way, and surprisingly, none of us feel any hatred for it.

Anyways, the new policy for tonight’s fire guard is that our chairs must face each other and essentially we will just stare at each other for the duration of the shift. My current shift partner is working on a word search puzzle while I’m writing in this journal.

Day 105

I had a physical therapy appointment today for the initial evaluation. Like everything else around here, I have to show up stupidly early and wait. For a 10:00 AM appointment, I had to be there at 7:30 AM.

After getting my evaluation, my day consisted of lunch and classroom activity involving a documentary covering the Desert Storm conflict.

My progress currently will be slow. Building the strength back up in my lower body will be a long process. I’m still on crutches until at least my follow up appointment in three days.

Day 106

Not much to say about today; I expect that’ll be the case often here in FTC.

I woke up and went to the gym again. Thankfully, the weather has warmed up a little. The pain in my legs seems to have lessened a bit today.

This place runs trainee CQ shifts all day, every day, so I’ve been assigned a shift during the afternoon. [For those that don’t remember, CQ stands for “Charge of Quarters”, which means guarding the front entrance to the barracks].

Days here feel like the constant loop of Groundhog Day; we wake up in the cold and dark and do the same thing until it becomes dark again.

The latest Army contractor I’ve noticed is Purell. There are OD green [olive drab] issued hand sanitizers and little Purell branded stations mounted on the walls. The germ safety posters here are also sponsored by Purell, recommending their products.

Day 107

It’s finally my first weekend at the FTC. The day began at 6:00 AM, leading straight to breakfast.

So far my day has been spent either cleaning or wasting time. During the night, my leg pain returned, and today’s activities have only aggravated it.

On Monday, I’ll follow up with my orthopedist and hopefully something will change. To borrow the idea from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I owe it to myself to strive for excellence and make it through daily progress.

Our afternoon consisted of lunch, a time period of nothing, and an evening meal of MREs.

Day 108

Not much happened today other than a company-wide contraband inspection. I spent the day getting extra sleep and finishing Psychology and Alchemy.

After dinner, the company was assigned the honorable duty of cleaning the battalion main office area. Since I’m still not authorized to do anything that involves a lot of heavy duty activity, I’m left sitting and observing.

I just need to take the days one step at a time. My level of success depends solely on myself. The ideas I so desperately need to retain and internalize seem phantasmagorical, ephemeral in a way that feels like I’m lying to myself. In the meanwhile, I just suck it up and continue.

Day 109

Today begins in the dark for me, as usual.

Since today is Monday, the people who are cleared to take the PT test will do so, which means that those of us not cleared to do so must take up their shifts. So I’m currently doing a shift of fire guard.

[Later in the day, Kilroy continues below].

After my follow up, I began the next phase of my recovery: weaning off my crutches. I’ve downgraded to a cane like I was using at home during part of my leave and eventually I’ll be off of it and back to walking normally. My prognosis today projects my recovery to be complete in about three and a half months.

The weather here is its own kind of insanity. The cold, bone chilling weather from a few days ago is gone, having been replaced with muggy heat that turned our bay into a convection oven.

Day 110

I’m finally making some progress, doing more exercise in the mornings now.

I have a disconcerting feeling that a majority of the food in the dining facility is from concentrate, including the milk. There’s a subtle powderiness to the milk that disturbs me slightly.

My day was spent doing a lot of waiting around, starting with a 10:00 AM class that I had to show up at 7:30 AM for.

I’ve begun to read a few of my journal entries to my peers and they’ve been an appreciative audience.

Later in the day, we had a core workout class.

For some reason, every waiting room here seems to have an Ebony magazine available. I suppose it makes sense given the demographics of the area.

Day 111

Today I experienced my first Wii Wednesday; our cardio workout in the morning was replaced with a mass game of The Michael Jackson Experience.

The rest of the post seems to be shutting down for the upcoming Thanksgiving break. Our breakfast today was limited to eggs, sausage, oats with cereal, and a similarly abbreviated salad bar. They’re promising us a more expansive lunch meal served by the people in charge. Since they need extra prep time, they’ve given us extra time to hang out between breakfast and lunch.

[Later in the day, Kilroy continues below].

Lunch turned out to be a dog and pony show consisting of slightly better food being served by higher ranking NCOs and Officers as a sign of solidarity with the common enlisted. After a few pictures and shallow pleasantries, they were all gone.

Dinner consisted of leftovers from lunch. The rest of our day was basically empty time filled with more of the same card and board games. It was relaxing, if a little bit mind numbing. I kind of wish we had been given back our phones.

 

This ends Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XIV – FTC. Next time we’ll pick up where we left off, as Kilroy continues his time in the Fitness Training Company.. Stay tuned for Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XV – FTC.


Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XIII – FTC

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 XIII – FTC.

 

[Kilroy left BCT on Day 69 of his military experience, and after 29 days of Con Leave he’s headed back to join the FTC (Fitness Training Company) for physical therapy].

Day 98

Like most days in the military, this one began in the dark. My allotted leave is over and now I must return to Ft. Jackson to see if I’ll begin my physical therapy or be sent back for extended Con leave.

I’ve been concerned for the past week that the injury I’ve been having no trouble with has suddenly flared up in pain. I still cannot get up stairs, leading with my left leg, without  constant pain, and for some reason it seems to be worse in the mornings.

I know that starting physical therapy will be painful, and I wonder if I will be sent home for further healing time. Whatever happens, I’ll have to focus and stand strong in the face of all of this.

Day 99

It’s not yet even the dawn of a new day and my night has gone poorly. Re-acclimating to the sleep schedule wasn’t that difficult, it’s the misery this place embodies. Seeing how they treat the TDD platoon is motivation enough to push forward. [TDD stands for Trainee Discharge Detachment. It’s where people go when they’re chaptering out of Basic Training]. The people being discharged are treated like human garbage.

The only goal anyone has in this place seems to be to spend as little time as possible in it. The people opting to join the TDD group just want to be done with this place; all of them want to be out and away from the system with the option to return later. I don’t have that choice. I can’t afford to.

How should I describe this place? The 120th AG seems to be running itself into the ground. As far as I can tell, the buildings were constructed sometime in the ‘60s and have never been touched since. Even the officers and NCOs here appear to be injured. The company commander had a pretty severe ankle injury and was in a boot for a while, and all the NCOs had various health problems that were either bad enough for them to have been sent on Con Leave or to have received permanent physical profiles for their condition.

The rumor mill has me worried. There are people here being medically discharged for the same reason I have - forced out of the rehabilitation program because they weren’t showing signs of healing and improvement. I have to heal. I have to win. On the side of good news, however, I have been scheduled to enter the rehabilitation program soon. My energies must remain focused in the direction of healing.

There’s a kind of quiet desperation to my situation. Mine is not the story the army wants told. The best part of today wasn’t even the news that I would be able to move on, it was actually being able to talk with a friend from my old company. Her opinion is the same as many others who are familiar with my situation – that she would probably would have quit in my shoes.

My greatest, only concern, is my health. I need to get better - be better. For now I can look forward to a friend of mine showing up in the next week.

Day 100

Today is the start of the first weekend here. There’s nothing important happening today. We had a late wakeup, the same meals, and free time to do whatever. Not much to say, really. I’m awaiting change – either the return of a friend or the ability to move on.

The more time I spend here, the more little, nasty, details I begin to notice: the particular shade of wear and tear to the paint, the foul feeling of the grime, how thin and insufficient the sheets seem to be. In the afternoon and into the evening I was assigned to staff duty – sitting at a desk for 3 hours reading A Game of Thrones. Potential jokes aside, the weather here is cold now, a winter that chills us all to the core.

Day 101

Another day of arbitrary time wasting. My time is spent reading and writing with plans to use the Day Room later if possible. [The Day Room is sort of like a recreation room].

[At night, Kilroy continues below].

I’m back again with night duty; I’m sitting at a receptionist desk doing some more nothing. The military seems to be great at finding a whole lot of nothing to keep people occupied.

What I do want to do is take the time and ponder more around the idea of kismet, destiny, and fate. Over and over again, some voice in my distant mind has always told me to follow a certain path in the most arbitrary of ways. I’ve always trusted that voice and now it has led me here. Looking at my past in retrospect has always painted it in a way that makes sense, but I know that the actual way forward is somehow more complicated than I could ever hope to understand. Where I am now is a kind of limbo - non progress with no ability to say that I’m doing something I enjoy. On the one hand this feels like the most trying time of my life, on the other I feel so dead inside I think I’m simply passively accepting whatever happens to come my way. Where I am now is the true dredges of the army, a place broken toys go to see if there’s anything left in their souls to continue on.

Many here do not seem to have the motivation or wherewithal to try to continue their military career. In my lowest moments I consider why I’m here. I’ve told my friends and myself that I wanted to do work for the government – to be part of the intelligence community in ways that would matter. Instead, now I’m stuck here feeling like I’m wasting time.

Day 102

Today is the day I’m supposed to be evaluated for entry into the WTRP [Warrior Training and Rehabilitation Program] program.

I wonder how it will go. As of this morning, I’m not too hopeful. My leg hurts in ways that I’m having difficulty trying to describe. Some part of me would like to go home for just a little while longer, but my chances of that seem astoundingly low.

I’m surrounded by people whose first instinct is to simply give up at the first major challenge. I’ve been advised to simply ask again for more leave, but I’m ready to move past this.

The good news is that my bones seem to be healing well. The impact of the injury on my right side has healed over with scar bone matter. They say I should make good progress in the WTRP.

I’m just glad that my body is healing. The spiteful struggling determination I used to drive myself forward certainly ran me into the ground. Nobody said this was going to be easy.

A final recap for the day: my initial injuries seem to be completely healed. All of the fractures and damage I had done to myself are now healed up. The left leg that had surgery is stable and the right side has also patched itself up.

 

This ends Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XIII – FTC. Next time we’ll pick up where we left off, as Kilroy continues his time in the Fitness Training Company. Stay tuned for Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XIV – FTC.


Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XII – Con Leave

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.

This week’s entry in the series is a bit different from the rest, as it will not be comprised of Kilroy’s journal entries, but rather my own observations of Kilroy during his Con Leave.

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

Without further ado, welcome to Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XII – Con Leave.

 

Kilroy arrived back home from BCT with a buzzed haircut and a pair of crutches. He spent his first few days at his parents’ home, but eventually headed down to San Diego to hang out here with me and a few other friends.

He seemed to be in pretty good spirits despite being in constant pain. The doctors told him he needed to stick to the crutches for a while before he could switch to a cane for walking.

It was clear Kilroy was still on an east coast military schedule, as he had the tendency to wake up ridiculously early, even after some adjustment he tended to wake up at 6 AM at the latest.

The first weekend he was here, Kilroy and I went to a specialty soda store and bought a selection of different colas. Kilroy tended to love Coke, but ever since we discovered Boylan’s Cane Cola, that became our new favorite. We figured that we could taste test a variety of colas and take notes to determine which one was the best.

Kilroy and I would split a soda during lunch, sip it, and take notes on the aroma and flavor (much like you would a scotch). For those who might be curious, our favorite cola from our rigorous taste-testing still ended up being Boylan’s cola, with Mr. Cola coming in as a close second.

We spent a fair bit of time catching Kilroy up on movies and TV shows he missed during his time at BCT, and he took the opportunity to get some gaming in as well. Fortunately, we were able to indulge our Kung Fu movie addiction as well (my Jackie Chan obsession is well documented).

Kilroy and I were able to spend a fair bit of time experimenting with perfecting homemade Neapolitan pizza, which we had been working on before he joined the Army as well I had ordered an Uuni 2 wood fired pizza oven before he shipped out, but it didn’t arrive until he was already at BCT.

Finally, Kilroy had a chance to try out the 840°F oven for himself. It really makes a significant difference when compared with a traditional electric oven and pizza stone, cooking a pizza in about one tenth of the time and provides leoparding on the crust as well. The Uuni 2 also does a fantastic job with steaks – it sears and chars perfectly and leaves the inside medium-rare.

Most of the time Kilroy and I spent together during his Con Leave revolved around food for two main reasons. The first is that we tend to iterate well when collaborating on food. The second reason is, because after the food in BCT, Kilroy was anxious to drastically increase the quality of the food he was eating. He wanted to get as much good food before heading back to Ft. Jackson for FTC (Fitness Training Company) and another round of BCT.

Life for us during that month was basically a throwback to college. We were just hanging out, gaming, watching Kung Fu and Hong Kong action films, and experimenting with food. All of these activities seemed quite necessary for Kilroy to help decompress after BCT and surgery.

Kilroy was annoyed by his situation, mostly seeing it as an inconvenience. He was anxious to be done with BCT already and start AIT (Advanced Individual Training) as soon as possible, so there was definitely a sense of restlessness during his time off.

Once he was back home, any feelings of regret he might’ve harbored about joining the Army were not present. He seemed content with his decision to join, and it was clear to him that it was the career path he wanted to take.

He even spent a fair amount of time doing research on Army policy, as well as reading accounts of other people’s experiences in FTC. Kilroy wanted to know what to expect and how likely he was to succeed in his goal of recovering fully during the timespan mandated by the Army.

Luckily, things worked out for the best for Kilroy. When he shipped back out, he was feeling much better both physically and mentally. He ended up making a full medical recovery and continued on in his military career, but I’ll leave the details of those experiences for future entries in the series.

 

This ends Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XII – Con Leave. The next article will pick up with Kilroy going into the FTC (Fitness Training Company) for physical therapy. Stay tuned for Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XIII – FTC.


Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XI – Non Trainer Status

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 XI – Non Trainer Status.

 

Day 58

Not much happened today; I just had a follow up appointment at the hospital. The class had a convoy operations course that I missed for the appointment, but it’s not as if I’d have been allowed to participate anyways.

Day 59

This morning is Victory Forge [I’ll just quote from this article to define Victory Forge: “Victory Forge is a 72-hour exercise that climaxes Army basic training at this post. The Army created Victory Forge using the Marine Corps' 54-hour-long Crucible as a model.”] and I'm just tagging along for the ride.

We'll see what I end up doing in the woods while the rest of my unit does their thing. My role as a non-trainer prevents me from joining in on the fun. In the meanwhile, I’m stuck taking care of administrative tasks and watching some of the non-training ‘chapters’ [people who quit the Army] do busy work that exists as both punishment and a waste of time.

Day 60

Today is day two of Victory Forge. It was a cold night and we’re all chilled to the core. The other non-trainers and I have been left to sit around with nothing to do but freeze until they’re ready to get moving.

I feel like I've fallen through a hole in the bureaucracy. My condition limits my ability to participate, but also grants me a unique perspective into how BCT is run from an administrative level, along with the dynamic and interactions between the Drill Sergeants themselves.

Even more people have gotten injured now. The National Guard girl I noticed when I first started has been dropped out of BCT with a popped hip. It's sad to see so many going down like this. I hope my next time through BCT I manage to make it through without injury.

Day 61

We had another freezing night. Thankfully, I was granted a small reprieve during the day by being sent out of the cold and into a medical appointment that took me out of the field. Day three of Victory Forge appears to be comprised of more drills and a tent setup.

Day 62

Today is day four of Victory Forge. We were allowed to sleep in the tents on cots last night. The night was not as cold as the previous few, but it still made for a miserable experience.

Alpha Company’s Drill Sergeants continue to emphasize how bad the company is, giving speeches and more physical training exercises.

The cold makes the pins in my leg shrink at a different rate than the bone – causing me pain and tightness in the leg. I've also run out of Percocet, so the pain is very noticeable.

My daily activities are limited. What little time I do have to spend with the platoons is comprised of doing nothing because of the condition I'm in.

[Later that day, Kilroy continues below]

The rest of the company is doing their 10 mile march towards the end of Victory Forge. I've been driven back to wait with the other non-trainers and to help set up for rites of passage.

At this point, I’m looking forward to the 30 days I’ll get of Con Leave. I hope I'll be able to maintain some of the friendships I've formed here. The end of BCT will be bittersweet. I'm happy for and proud of my comrades and friends, but I’m disappointed that I wasn't able to complete the final challenges with them.

For now, I'm down but not out. In due time I'll be able to come back and finish this, but right now – in this present moment – I'm no better than those who quit and those unworthy to serve.

The sergeants and captains assure me I'll do just fine when I return because my personal resolve will get me through it, but at the same time I'm tired of the fact that everything I do seems to be an uphill battle.

Day 63

Thanks to Army bureaucracy, I've been delayed in my return home. I'm currently scheduled to go home five days from now. I've really said all that can be said about bureaucratic inefficiency in the Army.

My days are significantly more boring now that training is winding down. With no training exercises to tag along for, or tasks to assist with, I have increasingly less to do.

In truth, I’m growing more anxious for the small modicum of freedom that will come with my leave. I still feel somewhat shell-shocked in a way about the situation – I remain outwardly positive but inwardly numb.

Part of me does want to quit – the feeling is ever-present. The thought of being done with this whole mess sits in the back of my mind. However, I continue inexorably onward, that part of my mind turned off as I keep moving forward.

Day 64

There was an interesting thing that happened today. During the downtime of outprocessing, I met a man of legend in the latrine.

We had heard rumors of Bravo Company finding two people having sex behind one of the storage sheds. I thought it was just one of those stories people tell as a funny cautionary tale, but apparently this was the guy.

I asked him why he was still here, and he told me they had allowed him to continue on through Victory Forge without any notice aside from a counseling statement (DA Form 4856). Unfortunately, afterwards they informed him that he and the girl he was having sex with would be chaptered out of the Army.

Day 65

Today was Graduation Day practice. I've been relegated again to sideline “duties” doing Weapons Guard, which requires you to literally sit next to a stack of rifles just in case someone runs up and tries to steal one.

Day 66

This is the final Sunday at BCT. I should be gone by now, but because of that bureaucratic hiccup I’m still stuck here. Not much to do and not much to say about it.

Day 67

I have mixed feelings about still being here. On the one hand, I've been given more time to spend with everyone, but on the other hand, it emphasizes the miserable feeling of ennui and being left behind by my peers.

On a more positive note, the doctors said I should heal back fully and return to duty without issue. All this does is delay me – not kill me. If it plays out like that, it’ll end up being a minor speedbump in my military career.

Day 68

Separation anxiety. I'm gone and so are they. For now, my experience is over. It's like being pulled out from the water moments before drowning – the reality of the world at large rushing in with ragged breaths as everyone around reassures you. My journey in this moment must be alone.

The test of fortitude against a dulled heart. I made friends here, comrades. I spilled blood and tears here with them and now the show is over – the curtains close on this on this production and the audience awaits the next act expectantly. I want there to be a future in this, and yet, I'm afraid.

The idea of viewing this as complicated theater has been an apt metaphor – all of it hangs by a few threads and we wonder what amount of drama will define us. Now, the wait to go home seems to have relieved a lot of weight from my shoulders – I'm alone and allowed to meditate the only way I know how. My mind has been cluttered without end for the past two months, and now that I return home I wonder about all the things that led me here.

Every time I think my situation is about to improve I seem to be dumped into a fresh new hell. I’ve been put into the holding battalion at the 120th. It is like the other parts of Reception, but even more depressing. I only hope my stay here will be as short as possible.

The Reception Holding Battalion (Reception Holding Unit, in 120th AG battalion) is near where Reception is, and the buildings have the same build quality as a seedy 1960’s motel.

We are “guaranteed” four hours of sleep but are given more. The rest of the time here is just filled with boredom.

I already miss the people I have come to know during Basic Training.

Day 69

Sweet freedom. I’ve left the Reception Holding Unit behind me and have set out on my way home.

I arrived at Columbia airport with two others who are headed home as well – we’ve already gone our separate ways and I’ve been catching up on what’s been going on with my friends through the magic of social media.

I’m conveniently heading out for Con Leave on Family Day, experiencing the lows of being injured and alone while my cohorts spend the day rejoicing with their families.

 

This ends Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XI – Non Trainer Status. The next article will be a bit different, as it covers Kilroy’s Con Leave, but will written by me from my perspective. Stay tuned for Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XII – Con Leave.