Sunday, January 31, 2010
Week Two - Aaaarrrrmy Training, sir!
Week two of training is now over (yes Judi, in the books. Hopefully you got someone to explain it to you sweetheart). What a long, exhausting week! Let me start by saying all of the training is conducted by Army Drill Sergeants who have all served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. A few of them are also Army Rangers. So we have that going for us, which is nice. Monday was spent receiving 2 more seabags (the Army calls them duffel bags) full of "gear" that will be required for the deployment - sleeping "system" (not sleeping bag, sleeping system), cold weather gear, ruck sack (fancy Army name for a back pack), and most importantly Individual Body Armor (IBA) & kevlar helmet (pics to follow). After gear issue we spent about two hours learning how to assemble and wear the body armor. I didn't think it was possible to respect the infantrymen who are actually "in the fight", but after wearing the 70 pounds of IBA for about 10 minutes my entire back and shoulders were in agony and these guys wear it almost all day, every day. Tough dudes. Anyway, Monday's chow brought back terrible memories for me as it was the dreaded meal-ready-to-eat or MRE. The last time I had an MRE was during Fleet Hospital Training at Camp Pendelton, CA in 1997. You would think with the technological advances that have occurred over the last 13 years the MRE would be greatly improved........NOT. It was every bit as disgusting as I remember. I was fortunate enough to secure the chicken and dumplings MRE and it looked like someone vomited in the foil pouch it comes in. Absolutely awful. Once again, the men in the fight are most likely eating these for most meals. So, if you ever get a chance to send someone over there a "care package", nonperishable food items like jack link's beef jerky and south beach diet peanut butter flavored protein bars are excellent items to send (cough*cough). The rest of Monday was spent back in the classroom learning Army culture, which is a little different (as you would guess) from Navy culture. The biggest difference I learned is that the Navy & Marines say "ooo rah" while the Army say "hoo uh". And its not as exaggerated as Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman. Its much more subtle. In fact, for the first hour or so I thought they were saying "cool". Oh yeah, and whoever coined the phrase "curse like a sailor" must have never been around Army personnel. I have never heard the "F" word used so much in my life. Even when I was tending bar at the OFI.
Tuesday started at 0530 with a one mile run in 30 degree temperatures. Very refreshing. Then after 30 minutes of "personal hygiene time" it was back to the classroom for Basic Rifle Markmanship (BMR). The last, and only, time I fired a rifle was when I was 12 and my day took me to the Carrolltown Rod & Gun club to "sight-in" his Winchester 30-30. I think I tried two or three times, frustrated the shit out of Biscuit and whined about being too cold and wanting to go home. Again, so I had that going for me, which is nice. The instructor was fantastic and I really paid attention because I was one of the very few out of the 120 or so in the class who really never fired a rifle. After class we were issued our "weapons", God don't call them guns, and instructed how to disassemble, clean, and reassemble them. I will be required to carry an M9 pistol with me in Afghanistan, for self-defense, but everyone who attends this course also has to learn how to fire the M16 rifle - just in case you need to use it.
Wednesday - more classroom. In the morning we learned about Personnel Recovery - how the Army searches for, locates, and returns Prisoners of War - and the Geneva Convention. The afternoon was spent reviewing Basic Combat First Aid. After the didactic portion the medical folks in the class provided hands on training in combat life-saving measures.
Thursday was spent at the Humvee Egress Assistance Trainer (HEAT). Judi posted a video of it on Facebook. Had it not been for the IBA, it would have been a piece of cake, but I am learning that the Army doesn't make anything easy. Imagine being seatbelted in your car with 70 pounds of weight strapped to you and then being flipped upside-down and having to get out. As soon as you release that seat belt you hit the roof like a ton of bricks and the humvees are so cramped you can barely move. I was the first one out in my group, but it was not easy. The highlight of the training is that it is all video taped. So while our group was waiting, we got to watch the group ahead of us, which included one of our General Surgeons. After he released himself from the seat belt you hear him say, "I AM FUCKED". He eventually got himself out, but it took him FOREVER, and the Drill Instructors would NOT help. Thursday afternoon was more rifle training at the M16 simulator, which was pretty cool.
Friday we spent the entire day at the shooting range, 0630 until 1900. It was the biggest range I had ever seen. We "zeroed-in" our M16s and then went through qualifications with the M9. I mentioned last week that Jordan Fees (know him?) gave me a little lesson on how to fire the M9 while I was home on leave. Well, it was very beneficial as I not only qualified, but I was also one of the better marksman there. Thanks Willis! The final exercise was like an M9 obstacle course where you had to run around and shoot at targets around various obstacles. One of the guys videotaped it and I'll see if I can get it on here. I was a perfect 18 for 18 on that course. The worst part of Friday was how it ended. There were three buses to take people back to the barracks. It was about 1800 and everyone was very cold and very tired and ready to get back for chow, a hot shower and bed. Our group was the 3rd bus and after we watched the first tow buses pull out we wondered why we were still sitting there 5 minutes after they left. Well, one of the Drill Instructors came onto our bus and said we had to go back out onto the range and recover more spent shells. Apparently, the Army is responsible for recovering 99% of the shells they shoot, which would have been nice to know beforehand so we could have been a little more diligent in the initial search. Well, the dude tells our bus (about 40 people) that we have to recover another 500 shells, yep 500. So, there we are in the dark, in freezing temperatures, in our body armor on the range looking for spent shells with the only light coming from one of the Drill Instructors pick-up truck....no shit. After about 30 minutes they called it off. I think we recovered about 50 of the 500. I've done some stupid things in my 15 years in the Navy, but that evolution has to be in the top 1 or 2.
Saturday was supposed to be more range time, but it was below 30 degrees with sleet and freezing rain, so they rearranged the schedule. We were taught land navigation (how to read a topographical map) and convoy operations, ending at 1200. Four of us were able to get into Columbia for dinner at a place called Arizona's Steakhouse and it was delicious. I had Ahi tuna, seared rare, that was out of this world. Of course, it wouldn't take much to beat the MREs. Oh, and a couple of adult beverages.
Happy to get through that week. For the past 6 months I have always said I never felt even close to 40 years old. This week, I felt every day of it. Every joint in my body aches. I hope there aren't many more days of wearing that IBA.
I also started going to church again. I'm not sure what I'm expecting to get from it, but I figure it can't hurt.
I miss Judi and Cowher even more, but she has been sending me pix messages to get me through. Keep it up baby!
Take Care all.
I tried to post a few pictures from the week. This is my first time trying to post pictures, so we'll see how it goes.
Posted by John Eck at Sunday, January 31, 2010