Tag Archives: basic training

No One Ever Drowned in Sweat

GodoPT

That’s what I keep telling myself. Every morning, when I drag myself out of bed at 0400 to go kill myself running, or with squats or some other form of physical torture.

The army is obsessed with PT. Especially running. Apparently I’m the only person that was unaware of this, but I got a hell of a rude awakening when I got to Basic last January. Even before the knee injury I struggled with PT. The only thing I was even halfway good at was situps. When I got to Basic, there was no flipping way I could’ve passed the PT test, even as low as the standards are for Basic and for women my age.

I’ve never been very physically active. At least not by army standards. Sure I like to hike and bike, stuff like that, but run? No, thank you, move along. I despise running. Still. And now especially because afterwards my knee hurts like hell for the rest of the day. By the end of the week, just the thought of running is almost enough to put me in tears. But I’ve learned a few things about PT, and about myself.

  • Just because my best isn’t as good as someone else’s best doesn’t de-value my best. I watch guys fly by me like I’m moving backwards every run, and they’re not even breathing hard. Meanwhile I’m dying, gasping for breath, feeling dizzy and heaving by the time the run is over. Sure, it’s embarrassing. But guess what? I gave my all, my 110%. Some of them weren’t even giving 75%.
  • Not quitting will get you further than you can imagine. I want to quit every single time. I want to stop when it starts to burn, when I feel like either my lungs or my knee are going to give out. But I keep pushing. It’s only an hour, I always tell myself. It sucks, but it can only suck for a certain amount of time, because we have too much other stuff to do today for the sergeants to keep us out here any longer. I keep going, even when I’m barely moving and my muscles are giving out. And surprise, surprise…I’ve gotten stronger.
  • You do get stronger. Sometimes, like when I compare myself to the 300+ PT scorers, I feel like I will never get any better and that a 300 is out of my reach. But then I have to remind myself of where I was in the beginning. And that I’ve already passed the PT test. Improvement is always something to strive for, but right now I have to be content with the last score and just keep pushing.

It doesn’t get easier, you just get STRONGER.

Army Strong.

How Bad Do You Want It?

This is one of my drill sergeants’ favorite lines, and one I keep asking myself.

I’m heading back to training today. In two weeks or less I should be restarting Basic. I’m ready to get going, if for no reason other than just to get the hell off this freaking post. I had a wonderful 4 weeks at home, spending time with the people I love most in the world and meeting new awesome people too. I hated leaving. Saying goodbye today was the hardest goodbye I’d ever had. Worse than the first time I left. Worse than leaving my parents’ house when I was 19.

“How bad do you want it? You have to WANT it!! Want it more than you feel your fear!! How bad do you want it?!?” One of my drill sergeants is really into this kind of pep talk.

But it makes me think. How badly do I want to earn the right to call myself an American soldier? How badly do I want this life for me and my family? Bad enough to put up with being held over in BCT for 7 months. Bad enough to put my family through all that time of not seeing me and barely talking to me. Bad enough to be too stubborn to quit, even when I wanted to.

And now I have to want it bad enough to finish 10-11 more weeks of BCT. Actual BCT (thank god), not just holding pattern BCT. 3 more months. Less, hopefully, till I graduate. Regardless…only 108 days till Christmas. 😉

Leaders

I keep reminding myself of all the good things about the army, about training. Besides just the generally good feeling of making progress, I’ve made some amazing friends in my time at Basic. People who I would trust with my life – and one day I might have to. I’ve met some NCOs – yep, the same drill sergeants that make your first few weeks of army life HELL on earth – who have inspired and encouraged me when I was at the end of my mental rope, when I didn’t think I’d ever physically be back to where I needed to be to stay in the army. My drill sergeants are extremely professional and VERY GOOD at being bad-ass, and yet I found out when I had a (unfortunately very public, nasty, drama-filled) problem with my ex-husband, that they really did have my back and went WAY out of their way to help me start to get that settled and behind me. I’ve learned a lot about what being a good leader means from them.

I’ve never worked for anyone that I had this level of respect for. And I’ve worked for quite a few people. Not one other boss did I trust enough to follow their direction without checking for myself. Not that that’s an option in the military, but I never thought there could be people I would trust and respect enough to follow their orders without question BECAUSE I TRUST THEM, not just because I have to.

On my way home the other day, I called to check in with our CQ. One of my flights got delayed, I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to get back to post, or where to go to report when I got back (#newsoldierproblems). I asked my questions, and the drill sergeant on duty knew the answer to everything I needed to know and made sure I knew so long as I kept him updated I wasn’t going to be in trouble for being late. I was stressed over a lot of things, but that 2 minute phone call was liking popping a bubble on my stress over returning to duty. Poof. Gone. Kind of weird but true.

I realize I’m still only in training. This is just the tip of the army iceberg. I know that not all NCOs or officers will inspire the kind of respect I’m talking about – not all the drill sergeants I’ve met do. But the ones that do…that’s the way I want to be.

Lessons in Patience…or Naww

Well. It’s been a long 7 months (almost 8 now). Nothing – and I do mean nothing – has gone as expected or planned. I’m not where I’m supposed to be at this point in time. I guess what happens, happens for a reason…I just have trouble accepting that.

So, in January I shipped off to Basic, expecting to be at the post for you know, the standard 9 weeks give or take a few days. Buuuut…stuff happened. I’m going to give the short story here. At one point I was going to write the long story, but that was months ago and probably would have been over several posts, and now I’m just over it.

Basic started like I guess it always does, with both my mind and body in shock, confused and wondering – when I had time to think about anything other than getting from point A to point B as fast as possible and HOW MUCH LONGER we’re going to be in the front lean and rest – why the hell did I volunteer for this? I learned very quickly that my recruiter lied about a lot of things, not the least of which was how obsessed the army is with running. Or just PT in general. I was really, really out of shape, and so came in for a LOT of razzing (to put it nicely) from the drill sergeants. It sucked, but no more than Basic is supposed to.

We were almost to the end of Red Phase (the first and in a lot of ways the hardest phase, at least mentally…you get treated the worst and get the fewest privileges) when we went and did the rappelling tower. It was supposed to be done in Week 0, but the weather was absolutely horrible (we did our PT eval with it 9 or 10 degrees and the gas chamber with it like 4) so it kept getting cancelled. This is the fun part of Basic, getting to do all this crazy stuff that normal people never do. We made our own harness for the tower – which while I can’t remember how to do it now, was pretty cool. Also extraordinarily painful to wear. I was very glad I was female. 😛 I made it through the practice 10 foot wall with no issues (my few times on an indoor rock wall came in handy), then moved on to wait in line for forever and a day at the real wall. While we were waiting we went on a practice ground jump. Just a rope that you grabbed and swung over a little puddle, basically.

Not going to discuss how I could not seem to summon the coordination necessary to swing across the puddle without dragging my feet through the mud. Nope. But I tried, multiple times. I was going to get across without getting wet, damn it! Well, the last time, I did…but as I landed, my right knee twisted inward and I heard a loud pop, accompanied by more pain than I’d ever felt up to that point in my life. A couple people from my platoon ran over and helped me up. I thought maybe I’d sprained my knee. I hobbled back over to the line. The drill sergeant of course didn’t give a damn – pain is meant to be worked through! You’re just looking for an excuse! You won’t graduate if you don’t finish this wall! Stop faking it! Yeah, okay, whatever. Lots of deep breaths. We pulled up my pant leg and my knee was already swelling. Every few steps I took it would do this weird buckling thing. But, I could kind of sort of walk if I walked slow. So I – very, very slowly and awkwardly – climbed the tower. Every time I put weight on my knee I would hear/feel another pop. When I finally got to the top, I laid down and cried like a baby. I had made it, but I still had to get down! Weirdly enough, I remember seeing the drill sergeants up there eating Little Ceasar’s pizza and I was irritated because I wanted some. There were a couple guys from my platoon up there waiting their turn too, and they helped me pull it together enough to suck it up and rappel down. The pain just kept getting worse and worse. It felt like it took FOREVER to get down the wall but they told me later I went down a lot faster than most people. Haha. Then we had to march back (half a mile? a mile? I don’t even know). Which was a complete joke by that point. Someone took my pack, and I “marched” between two guys from my platoon. Every time my knee gave out (which felt like every other step), if I fell forward I grabbed the pack on the guy in front of me and if I fell down the guy behind me grabbed me by my camelbak and pulled me back up. So embarrassing. I was in so much pain, but I still overall felt horrible for needing help and not being able to keep up with everyone else.

And they still thought I was faking, so I waited till the next morning to go to sick call (No ER for you! you’re not bleeding, and you’re not dying, right? Right.), where I was rushed off to the hospital – by this point my knee was almost the size of a basketball, I hadn’t slept, and I was still in excruciating pain. MRI done, shots of some painkiller, that ohsosweetly knocked me out for about 6 hours. Then they sent me off to quarters. Little did I know I wouldn’t be going back to my training battery, ever.

The MRI showed a complete ACL tear. It looked like a rope that someone had jerked on and snapped. Which explained a lot. That also meant surgery, and longs months of physical therapy before I could even think about going back to training. But, since I wasn’t finished Basic, that also meant I had to stay in the “BCT environment” while I had surgery and recovered. No contact with the outside world (except mail), no visits, lots of drill sergeants and formations…all the sucky stuff of Basic without any of the fun (or just distracting) stuff.

I’m going to stop here because I’m already tired of talking about it. The bottom line is I’ve made it through 7 months of that hellhole, and they gave me 4 weeks of leave to come home and finish recovering (now that I’ve finished physical therapy) before going back to Basic. My physical therapist says it’s one of the fastest ACL recoveries he’s seen. I’ve learned a lot, not just about the army but about myself. I’ve made some amazing friends and met some amazing people. I have more respect for my drill sergeants than anyone else I’ve ever worked for or under, even though if you watched you would think they treat us like crap. I’ve had some really dark days, days where I wanted nothing so badly as to just quit. Just to be done. But I couldn’t do it. I don’t even know why, really, other than that this is what I’ve wanted for so long that I just couldn’t let it go, no matter how bad it sucked.

I have to restart Basic. Yep, from day 0. Shark attack, bag drag, the whole 9 yards. Not looking forward to it, but whatever. It only lasts a few days. And after 7 months of limbo, 9 weeks of training and progress doesn’t sound that horrible. I’m in a lot better shape physically and mentally than when I came to BCT in January. Like a hundred times better. Sure running still sucks, especially since my knee is kind of still messed up. But I can do it, and I’m going to finish this time.

It doesn’t get easier, you get stronger.

I said that to myself almost every day for the past months. Because if I could just get through that day, I would be stronger. Just for having made it. And it’s true. Now if I can just remember that when I’m in Basic I’ll be good. 😉 I’m still really frustrated that I’m so far behind. I feel like I should be a pro at hurry up and wait by now, but it still just grates on me. I hate waiting, and I REALLY hate being stuck in limbo, which is all this entire time has been. So I’m not sure my patience has actually been improved any, I’ve just proved to myself that I can wait, even when I don’t want to.

Getting stronger.

Are We There Yet?

Well, I was starting to think flights didn’t work the way they used to. You know, where you fly from point A to point B to point C, all the while getting closer to your final destination.

I can’t even imagine the hassle it was to get tickets for all of us with less than 24 hours notice, but it was nothing but chaos when we got to the Charleston airport. We were almost late for our flight, that 7 of us were supposed to board…but only 3 reservations had gone through. Luckily I was one of those – I’m really not sure I could have put up with another night in the hotel. We hauled butt down to the gate, with only 20 minutes to spare, but turns out the pilot had noticed an expired inspection sticker on the plane’s fire extinguisher. No can do, he said. Has to be reinspected before takeoff, he said. Shouldn’t be long, he said.

Almost 4 hours later, during which time we missed our connecting flight from Dulles to Oklahoma, we boarded. Got to Dulles, of course there weren’t any other flights until the next day (today), so they put us up in a hotel…we got lost in the airport, got to ride the shuttle train (which was THE best part of the whole trip, I was so excited that we had to get back on it this morning, even if it was only 4 am), and the hotel was the nicest one I’d ever stayed in and I didn’t have to share a room! Other than being starved and frozen, it wasn’t too bad. At least until the alarm went off at 3 this morning.

Finally we weren’t rushed for time, but even though we boarded on time we were late leaving because the plane had to be de-iced and it took forever. We were taxiing into Cleveland at 815 and our next plane left at 836. Yeah…we’d given it up as a lost cause but ran for it anyway and actually made it. I was starting to think maybe it just wasn’t meant for me to go to Oklahoma! That plane was late taking off too, and had to be sprayed with enough de-icer fluid to completely ruin the view out the windows for the 2+ hour flight.

Alls well that ends well though, right? We’re waiting on someone from Ft. Sill to pick us up now. I’m feeling a little nervous again but I’m so ready to get this show on the road.

Might be able to update this again during reception but I doubt it. Really worried this entire week of delays is going to push graduation and AIT dates way back. Guess I’ll find out soon enough. I’m going to try to send my little brother some letters to post for me during Basic. 😉 No promises though, I think I’m going to be pretty busy.

The view out my window at Cleveland this morning.

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Off We Go

A few days late, but we’re off regardless.

I got to the Beckley MEPS on Monday, only to be told that night that MEPS would be closed Tuesday due to weather conditions. So, along with about 30 other shippers, I spent most of that day and all of the next day bored out of my mind. Too much time to think about all the stuff that’s coming in the next few weeks. But, I had a nice roommate and we survived.

Wednesday morning MEPS ran on a 2 hour delay, so we just got to sleep in a little longer (which was great). The weather was still kind of nasty…we had ended up with about 4-5 inches of snow and some ice, and the temp hadn’t risen above 7 or 8 degrees by the time we left. Everyone piled onto a Greyhound style bus and we took off…only for the bus to get stopped at the bottom of a hill near the MEPS building. Near, but you still couldn’t actually see the building. “Sorry kids, but you’re gonna have to walk.”

Did I mention most of us were leaving for parts south and had nothing more than tennis shoes and hoodies? So we walked about half a mile in ice/snow, carrying our bags…which, yes of course we’ll have to do in training, but at least there we would have had some warmer clothes. By the time we got to the building we could barely feel our ears and fingers, but we made it. One girl passed out almost as soon as she got inside (guess who DIDN’T get to go anywhere?), but other than that it was great.

Got inside only to be told the doctor HADN’T made it and we would have to go BACK to the hotel for another night. So after hours of waiting for one minivan to make multiple trips back to get us all, we got back. It started snowing again, and everyone moaned and groaned about how bored they were and how badly they wanted to leave. The nervousness about Basic and everything else seemed to have disappeared in all the free time we’d had, everyone just wanted TO DO SOMETHING.

More processors came in that night, mostly high school juniors and seniors taking the ASVAB and getting their physical. Since we’d checked out of the hotel that morning we got new roommates – my second roommate sucked. I swear that girl brought more makeup for a one night stay than I even own. And she insisted we sleep with a lap on. AND she needed extra time to get ready in the morning, so her alarm went off at 5:50…and every 5 minutes after. I could hear her moaning and tossing around but she never did get up, so at 6:30 I gave up on more sleep and went to take a shower. You snooze and wake up your roommate in the process, you’re definitely gonna lose.

So this morning we were up to 75 people going to MEPS, and they were still running on a 2 hour delay. They brought in 2 buses to hold everyone, and thankfully everyone made it, including the doctor. Paperwork is done, flights are scheduled, everyone is sworn in, orders are in hand, we’re ready to go!

So yeah…basically this whole week has been practicing “hurry up and wait.” I don’t even feel that nervous anymore, just ready to get this done. Or at least started.

Signed, Sworn, Committed

I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

Oh boy…I just signed the next 4 years of my life away, starting in 3 weeks. I’m crazy excited, but my stomach keeps tying itself in knots when I think about trying to put everything on hold…or leaving someone else in charge of my personal affairs, or leaving things on auto. Um. No??? But yes. Such an insane mix of feelings, it’s so weird. I really don’t want to say goodbye to my friends, my coworkers, my family…and yet at the same time I do. The sooner I get started, the sooner Basic is over and the sooner I’ll be back in touch. Long distance isn’t anything new to me…not having ANY communication – no phone, no text, no e-mail, no Facebook – is. I can receive and send letters and hopefully get a few phone calls, but that’s it. Apparently we can take our cell phones, but only get to use them at the drill sergeant’s discretion. Not quite sure what I think of that, but ok.

My last day at the Red Cross is January 7. Then I have to get packed/finished/settled/legal, to ship out on January 20.

Oh boy!