Friday, January 15, 2010

Another great decision..I'm in the Army now!

Just a word to the wise, don't EVER join the ARMY after a night of drinking. You seriously will not wake up thinking in your right mind because you haven't had your weekend dose of Waffle House to soak up the residual effects of too many brews

Yep, that's what I did. I didn't eat my Waffle House Patty Melt along with my scattered, smothered and covered hash browns and the next thing I knew I was raising my right hand and being inducted into the ARMY hall of fame. But I was going to have this great job in Military Intelligence and I was going to stay stateside and I was going to finish my last two years of college, go to Officer's Candidate School and get a job with the CIA when I finished my four year commitment. I had a plan...It was a good one. (Unless you asked my parents. That's a whole different story).

So my plan was a good one or at least that's what I thought...I was shipped off to Fort Jackson, South Carolina with several other "deer caught in the headlights" cadets and upon arrival that's when the party started. Off the bus to screaming and yelling (I think some of that was actually me screaming for my mommy). Push-ups, sit-ups and foul language all around. I know I made up some words I haven't heard since. People started crying, I just looked around and thought...God, why didn't I just go to Waffle House?

Basic Training was extremely stressful at first, but I realized all the drill sergeants could do was yell and scream. Hitting was not allowed. What freaked me out initially became a game and I would actually smile at the ridiculousness of it all. I must admit though that eight weeks crawled by. We were up at 3:30-4:00am and usually didn't get to go to bed until 11:00pm. I was always on fire guard, which meant I sat at a desk with a flashlight and made sure the dorm didn't catch on fire. I guess nobody cared that there were actual sprinkler heads on the ceiling. This was not a punishment. I was a squad leader and they wanted to see what I was made of. For eight weeks I was made of complete lack of sleep and too many carbs. I swelled up like a chipmunk. I was a lot stronger, but I looked like a logger straight out of the great northwest.

Some of the people in my battalion were very challenged emotionally and physically. We had a super model join (not really, but she was beautiful). She realized she didn't look good in camouflage and didn't enjoy being yelled at. It messed up her chai, so she attempted to commit suicide by sawing on her wrist with a spoon stolen out of the chow hall. She wasn't successful, so she decided that curling up on her bed and rocking back and forth would do the trick. Nothing doing. She was finally discharged when she ate four baby aspirin and pretended to be overdosed. How she got the baby aspirin is beyond me. Maybe her GQ boyfriend sent them in the mail. The drill instructors finally booted her. Unfit for duty. I think that decision should have been made when she was sawing at her wrist like a mad woman using a spoon.

Then there was the 36 year old woman, who seemed ancient when I was 20, that barely had the strength to get out of bed. She had never done a lick of exercise in her life, but she decided this would be a starting over point for her since she was recently divorced. She was the one person who caused all of us to be punished by doing God only knows how many push-ups as she laid on the floor crying that she couldn't do anymore. At last count I don't think she had done one. She always started off in the push-up position and then flopped to the ground on the count of one. The count of two is when all hell would break loose. It got so bad that we finally had to loop a belt around her waist to assist getting her up. The other "old-timer" was also 36, could run like a gazelle (and she had smoked 2-3 packs of unfiltered Camel cigarettes a day before joining the army) and walked around the barracks without her top on. She was from San Francisco. I think that says it all.

The out of shape 36 year old gal with no muscle tone almost killed herself and the drill instructor when she had to throw a grenade over a concrete barrier. Grenades are heavy and one should not be handed to someone that does not have the strength to do a push-up. She hoisted that grenade and plop, it fell right in front of the barrier where she and the drill instructor were standing. It didn't make it over to the other side. I actually saw the instructor watch his life flash before his eyes. She just stood there basking at her accomplishment of throwing the grenade. Suddenly the instructor was throwing her into a fox hole as the sucker exploded. It was horrifying to say the least. I was expecting body parts to be strewn across the field.

The 15 mile road march was a ton of fun. We had more brass out there trying to look more important then the next guy and we became stuck in the middle of the battle of the male ego. After 20-something miles and no end in sight because we were lost in a forest, I realized that officers were not exempt from dumb ass syndrome. I guess being an officer doesn't automatically give you common sense.

So we trudged on. My feet were so swollen I could no longer feel them. I had long since stopped carrying my M16 in front of me with both hands. I now had rigged a device using the straps on my rucksack to help carry the rifle. I was pushing the girl ahead of me who had started making wounded cat noises. I was covered in scratches and brambles from our four hour trek through the woods that had been "planned" all along (just ask the Major, he'll tell you).

I realized we were in trouble when the drill instructors and officers huddled together and were looking at a compass. Oh great, we were going to stay lost in the forest and it would become survival of the fittest. Those of us who were stronger would have to maintain our strength by eating the weaker ones. I had just seen a movie a couple of months previously where people actually did that when their plane crashed in the Andes Mountains. The idea of eating a fleshy, stinking Private First Class made me sick to my stomach.

The sun was getting lower in the sky and FINALLY we found a road. We were back on track. The Major turned to us all and told us were approximately seven miles to our barracks. WHAT??? At this point I was hungry, mad and sick of the girl in front of me who was having a nervous breakdown and making stupid wounded animal noises. I think there would have been a collective groan if anyone had the energy.

Finally we saw the beautiful barracks just up ahead. I wanted to kiss the ground. We plodded on to the front of the building where we were instructed to remove our boots and place our feet in buckets of water. That would have been a perfect idea if I could have removed my boots. My swollen feet were wedged in there tighter than a thong in a fat woman's butt.

After being allowed to sit down and rest for five minutes, we were told to line up for chow. I was so tired I was rocking back and forth in place. I barely remember eating (which is not a bad thing when you are in the ARMY). But the best dessert we were given was a reprieve to retire to our barracks. I dragged myself up the stairs and made another lame attempt at removing my boots. I just flopped over and passed out until an hour and a half later when I was awakened to take over the duty of fire guard.

Graduation finally arrived. As we were standing on the parade grounds in front of our families and feeling a sense of accomplishment I was forcefully pushed out of line. When I turned around to see who pushed me, the girl behind me fell right onto her face. Obviously she had locked her knees and passed out. As I started to bend down to administer some sort of aid, like a shout and shake and possible CPR, I was told by the drill instructor to get back into my place and leave her alone. So I stepped over her lifeless body and resumed my position. It was then that I realized that life as I knew it would not belong to me again for the next four years. The only good thing about that experience was she didn't have to be awake for a portion of the boring pomp and circumstance.

Ah yes, those were the good ol' days. Little did I know what awaited me once I arrived at my advanced training in Massachusetts...I should have asked the super model if she had any additional baby aspirin.

To be continued.....

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