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.


ZAUF: Types of Rifles

Earlier in this series, we established the separation of firearms into three very broad categories: rifle, shotgun, and handgun. Each firearm category has its own purpose and role to play in the spectrum of usage. Let’s continue by taking a more granular look at the different types of rifles.

The rifle category is defined by the lands and grooves carved down the interior length of the barrel, as well as the fact that the weapon is meant to be fired from the shoulder. These lands and grooves, called “rifling”, serve to impart a spin upon the projectile as they leave the weapon, making it more accurate at distance with the proper projectiles.

In the broadest sense, the category of rifle is broken down by specific types of actions: e.g. bolt action, lever action, pump action, semi-automatic, and various types of single shot. In the current civilian market, the most popular rifles are generally within either the bolt action or semi-automatic category. Further expanded, rifles are also split up by their purpose, with common categories including hunting, sniping, assault, battle, and other terms entrenched in common parlance. These terms will be further explored in a future ZAUF article.

bolt right hand left hand bolt

Bolt action rifles are defined by their action; a manually operated bolt that is opened and closed to cycle a cartridge in and out of the chamber. Bolt action rifles may be loaded with an internal or external magazine, and may come in the form of single shot rifle with no form of additional feeding. Variations of the bolt action operation usually come in the type of handle the bolt uses: left, right, or straight pull. Because of the particular way bolt action rifles operate, along with the greater overall strength of the mechanism, this type of rifle is able to reliably handle much larger and more powerful cartridges than other types of action.

Lever action

Lever action rifles are defined by the lever, usually wrapped around the trigger guard and grip of the firearm, which is used to cycle the action. This style of action is not as strong as its bolt action counterparts and suffers, generally, from an in-line magazine which runs underneath the barrel. The particular quirk of this type of firearm means that most lever action rifles, unless fed by a box magazine, will only be available in calibers with flat-nosed or round nosed bullet loads in much lower overall strengths. This is because sharper nosed bullets line up in a tube have the unfortunate possibility of accidentally setting off the primer from an adjacent round.

Pump-Action-Octagon-Rifle

Pump action rifles use a pump to cycle the cartridge through the rifle in the same manner as a pump action shotgun. This type of action generally uses the same under-barrel linear magazine as their lever action brethren, though there are models which utilize a detachable box magazine. This type of action tends to be rarer in the rifle category than it is in the very common pump action shotgun category.

semi Automatic

Semi-automatic rifles are defined by their action self-loading the next available round through various means of recycling the energy created by firing a round, as well as by the fact that they fire only a single round every time the trigger is pulled. This is the key that differentiates a semi-automatic rifle from a fully-automatic rifle, as the latter is capable of sustained fire from an ammunition source with only one pull of the trigger. This category of rifle covers a very broad range of firearms available historically, as well as in contemporary production. Earlier historical examples tend to be fed via stripper clip into a fixed internal magazine, while modern production semi-automatic rifles generally opt for a removable box magazine for feeding.

break actionSharps_1852modern black powder

Finally, more niche single shot rifles come in a variety of actions such as break action, falling block, and various types of muzzle loaded rifles. Break action rifles are generally single or dual-shot firearms that are loaded by breaking open the action at the breech (toward the stock) end. Cartridges in break action rifles are loaded and removed by hand with some amount of spring assistance. A falling block action is generally actuated by a lever underneath the action (usually wrapping around the trigger guard), but requires manual action to extract and load any following rounds. Finally, muzzle loaded rifles hearken back to the days of the musket wherein powder, wad, and shot are loaded from the muzzle (business end) of the rifle and jammed back into the breech. Modern black powder muzzle loaders continue to remain popular for hunting.

This provides general overview of the types of rifles in some broad subcategories separated by their action types. There are many more distinctions that are available amongst rifles that will be covered later on.


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.


Kilroy Joins the Army – Part X – Med Quarters

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 X – Med Quarters.

 

Day 50:

I had my surgery this morning. They’ve put three pins in my left femur and have a plan to get me back on track eventually. At least they ended up not needing to put pins in my right leg.

My day has mostly been spent in a state of narcotic inebriation. I'm in pain – not so much that I can't deal with it, but I am hurting. Also, knowing the pins are there is discomforting. It’s an unpleasant feeling knowing that you have something extraneous now permanently residing in your body.

I'm determined to return myself to my previous level of mobility and fitness.

Day 51:

Sick quarters remind me of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, except instead of a crazy nurse holding dominion over my life, it is a Drill Sergeant. The worst part of this is knowing that I’ll be stuck here for at least 3 weeks until I get sent home for con leave. [“Con leave” is short for Convalescent Leave, which the Army provides to people who need time for recovery].

I stopped by my company earlier to get my things – a lot of it felt surreal. My progress is on a separate path from theirs now. I'm glad to have made the friends I did, though I have the feeling we’ll lose touch, especially now that we’re no longer on the same track.

My first impression of Med Quarters is its desolation. The people stuck here appear to be miserable and hopeless, ambling about aimlessly and just sleeping to pass the time. There is no energy here – a lack of ambition defines the place.

I hope to escape it as soon as possible, and the only way I can accomplish that is through aggressive healing. I need to concentrate and focus on healing and doing whatever I can into shortening the amount of time spent in this hole.

Day 52:

Today is day two in the hole, or maybe it’s really day one since this will be the first full day I'll have spent here.

More people have been assigned to my room, making it seem fairly crowded. [At this point there were five people including Kilroy in the room].

The Captain [Kilroy’s Company Commander] wasn't lying when he told me this place would suck.

I'm curious to know how my friend has managed to deal with this place for so long. [The friend that he’s referring to here was the recruit that tore both of her ACLs swinging in the ropes course early in BCT. (Day 12 in

The sick quarters are arranged linearly along one floor – a hallway full of doorways that lead to rooms with bunks and minimal amenities for approximately four people. It is technically neither a hospital nor a prison but it feels like both.

Everyone here is either sick or injured, but we are treated as prisoners – marched to meals and told when to wake up. Many people here claim it is better than BCT, with all the time during the day to sleep and write letters, but I can't stand it.

Many of my fellow inmates are on their way out – some being discharged for anxiety and depression, others because their health problems were filed as preexisting conditions that the military doesn't want to deal with. These people were removed from training during the first few weeks of their BCT cycle, destined perhaps to never complete it.

I seem to be the only case here that doesn’t plan on leaving the Army. I’m still willing to fight to be here.

Day 53:

Day three in the hole.  I feel myself degenerating mentally and it seems like I’m losing my mind.

There is nothing to do, nothing to see, nothing to talk about. Days are separated by meals and loss of consciousness.

Silence dominates the times between. My roommate suffers from the kind of sleepy depression that puts him to sleep between meals. It's a wonder I haven't turned to the pain pills I’ve been provided as a means of escape. My own moral fortitude dictates that I shouldn't.

I predict my future journal entries will be pretty sparse, there isn't much to say about life here; even Reception was better than this.

Day 54:

Today is day four and thankfully there’s been some progress. I have a small list of daily appointments I need to be attending now. Perhaps the worst part is that I’ll be here at least one additional week for physical therapy.

[Later that day, Kilroy continues below].

I had a follow-up appointment with my surgeon today and told him I couldn’t stand this place. Thankfully, he gave me a profile that allowed me to rejoin my company with a non-trainer status.

Conveniently the CQ Sergeant had come by to pick someone else up, so I slipped in and escaped with her that way.

My best success for the moment has definitely been securing my release from Med Quarters.

Day 55:

As expected, wandering around as a non-trainer has proven to be a much better experience than Med Quarters.

I caught up to my platoon in the middle of grenade qualifications. I'm disabled by a profile and my injury, so I've been forced to stay with the group of non-trainers, which is comprised of two vastly different groups. The non-trainers are split into a group of people who are injured and still want to be here and another group of people who want nothing more than to go home (some of whom are healthy and some are injured or sick).

The days seem less filled now in comparison to how every day used to be in BCT.

Most of the time we do menial chores and wait. The grenades produce a sound like thunder which booms over the hilltop while we try to converse over the noise.

The actual lack of activity has started to bother me as I watch my peers advance, feeling that I’m stagnating and not progressing.

I know I'll return to be successful, but the day-by-day struggle to heal makes it feel that much further away.

Day 56:

Another day of non-activity. I exist outside the kabuki theater narrative now, looking at the stage as an audience member. It's a surreal feeling of not belonging.

Being uninvolved places me in a position of disadvantage – I'm stuck without purpose. My medical appointments take me away from my platoon into areas that are not part of the training environment.

My stitches came out today, leaving me with a modicum of paperwork to do in order to have my transfer toward con-leave pushed forward. I may end up leaving here before my peers graduate.

Day 57:

Today was yet another day of lounging around as a non-trainer.

I received another letter from my BCT pen-pal and have something to keep me busy at least.

Today is Buddy Team Live Fire Training – something I'll sadly be unable to do until I’m fully healed and back in BCT for another round.

 

This ends Kilroy Joins the Army – Part X – Med Quarters. Next time we’ll pick up where we left off, as Kilroy continues spending time with his unit as a Non-Trainer. Stay tuned for Kilroy Joins the Army – Part XI – Non Trainer Status.


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

My friend and fellow Not Operator author, Kilroy, said he was joining the US Army last year. We realized that his experiences would make for an interesting read, especially when there are so few online writings about what it is like, emotionally and physically, to experience modern basic training and beyond. He agreed to keep a journal of his time, and that we would publish it to Not Operator.

Kilroy tends to write his personal journals with pretty purple prose, so with his permission, I’ll be editing and paraphrasing his journal a bit to make it an easier read, with the help of my other friend and fellow Not Operator author, Michael. I’ll also be adding comments of my own in bold brackets [like this] to provide some extra context when necessary. If there’s large enough demand for it, we will post the full, unedited, version of Kilroy’s journal. To avoid making Kilroy’s experiences one giant wall-o-text, the journal will be broken up into an ongoing series of articles where it makes sense to do so. Plus, with Kilroy still in the Army, the journal is far from complete.

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

Without further ado, welcome to Kilroy Joins the Army – Part IX – Basic Training (BCT).

 

Day 41:

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

Day 42:

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

Day 43:

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

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

Day 44:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 45:

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

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

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

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

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

Day 46:

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

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

Day 47:

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

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

Day 48:

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

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

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

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

Day 49:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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