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Week 08
"Final FTX and a Short Walk"


It's Sept, it's week 8 now, it's our final ftx, and final training that we have for basic... It's supposed to be a good day. We got up at 0215, formation at 0300, then we waited till almost 0400 to draw our weapons. Totally boring wait. All of a sudden, it's cold out in the morning too. We finally kicked off the 10K at 0430, and we got to our FTX location at 0715. Now, I'm almost positive this march was a lot longer than 10K. The march was really fast, and I wasn't hydrated enough, or maybe it was the fact that I couldn't bend either of my ankles... anyhow, after about a half mile, I started cramping up big time. The pace is constant on road marches too, so I tried to run in place, or run at a walking pace. Needless to say, this was a tough, long, fast-paced march. We took onlly two breaks for 10 min each, and we could only get down on one knee rather than sit. With a 59 pound rucksack (I weighed it before I left), this just wasn't easy at all. In fact, it was one of the hardest things physically for me yet. Not to mention how sore I was becoming. And all of this, right before 3 days in the field.

We got to our site and busted out the MRE's. (nothing like a meatloaf breakfast after a 10K) After we all had to set up our FTX sites. Drill Sergeant Carter took up 6 in leadership (Greer, Anderson, Conlon, Cha-Jua, Me, and Hackett) around our position, told us what the gist of the mission was, and we had to execute. Of course, Vollrath and I got one of the best spots to set up shelter and our fighting postion, since I had to pick them. The whole time we were setting stuff up, digging our hasty (fighting position), Drill Sergeants and the Senior Drill Sergeant were walking around, telling up what we were doing wrong. Colonel Palermo and Lt. Col. Lewis decided to make a surprise visit, and that sucked because our Drill Sergeants get all edgy then. They found two guys without their gas masks/rifles/kevlars, and we had to evacuate them both by stretcher. It sucked. By noon, at least 10 people got their rifles taken by a Drill Sergeant. They get them back of course, but only after 20 mins of low crawling.

After lunch we finally started hand to hand training. After being put off for so long, it was good to be getting it over with. Hackett became my new battle buddy, because he was now the 4th squad leader. So we did all the moves on each other. It wasn't all that fun because the Drill Sergeant telling us the movements kept smoking the hell out of us. I was getting mad we were wasting so much time trying to stand up/sit down fast enough, and not using the time to learn the moves. Hackett knew all these weird moves and he is all flexible, so when I couldn't get him to submit on this one hold, I asked the DS to "show me the right way". Even DS Carter took a while, but eventually he got it in. Pretty funny. The other DS's joined in on "demonstrating" holds on some of the privates.

WE had a few matches after we learned everything. WE formed a bing ring in the grass, and started it up. We started back to back and sitting down. We can't get up off our knees, and the whole goal is to get someone to "tap out". DS Carter started at the heavyweights and worked down. Good too, because now I could get a good match. I was about the 4th match, against Bircher. It was a pretty easy match. I smoked him pretty good, honestly. Took me a while to figure out which hold was the best, and my third attempt was the charm. It was fun, with everyone yelling, "Comb it back" (training technique to apply the hold correctly), and then he tapped. I barely felt it too, which is pretty freaky, because it's not difficult to mess someone up.

There was maybe 10 matches total. A lot of people didn't get to wrestle, but I was pretty lucky. We then proceded to eat our "Hot A's" (veal, mashed potatoes, black eye peas, and cake), so of course, I went to bed hungry. That night was 50% guard, so while I was awake, Vollrath was asleep, and vice versa. I just stayed up until 2400, then Vollrath took the last 3 hours. That was pretty hard, getting up at 0300 with only 3 hours sleep in the field, but I guess it prepares us for how it feels if we ever have to do it for real.


Final FTX - - day 02

Vollrath gets me up at 0300, and at 0330, were were both in the fighting position when we heard the other soldiers giving the sign for a gas attack. Yeah, nothing like another CS gas experience. However, Vollrath and I were the two fastest at getting our masks on, so we didn't have anything to worry about. Blessel, who was next to us, (an appropriate decision for me to put him there, might as well have a few laughs...) got his mask taken by Col. Palarmo. His carrier was broken, so now even our brigade commander knew Blessel by name. He told the DS he didn't have his mask, and the DS told him to cover his mouth. This didn't stop Blessel from freaking out and running 200 yards into the field in front of us. Hilarious, but what made it better was that it was only a smoke grenade, not CS gas. (Vollrath and I smelled it for a test). It seemed as Blessel thought it was the end of his life as he knew it, but I might have freaked out the same way if it was actual CS ...remember the gas chamber...

Drill Sergeants came around often till about 0630, sometimes with real CS, or more smoke, or just the noisemaker grenade. All in all it just made it difficult to sleep in the hasty, which just about everyone did. It was easy to sleep with a gasmask on because you could rest the canister on your rifle, still maintaining the fighting position. All to easy to make it look like we were awake.

After breakfast (mmm... beef patty), we put our miles gear on, or lazer tag stuff. One shoulder harness, one kevlar band, and the lazer attached to the M16. It was old stuff too, dated 1988, so I didn't expect too much.

We broke our platoon into two groups. 1st and 2nd squad and 3rd and 4th. Hackett and I were in charge of our two squads. So our first mission... infiltrate 3rd platoon's position. We had a great plan too. Mainly it involved a bunch of low crawling but we were basically on top of them before they knew where we were. It was pretty funny, but the DS's kept killing us rather than the lazers, so it was difficult to figure out an actual winner. I'm biased, but I think we won.

Our next mission was to walk out to a point off a map. The two guys I assigned to be the navigators were all messed up, plus, I put us in the wrong formation. DS Carter tore into me for all of that. Then he gave me a few corrections, then said I had 5 mins to execute. I did a pretty good job after that. I sort of felt a change in myself, really taking charge, and having everyone actually listen to me for once. I knew what had to be done, and we got everything in order in less than three mins. Honestly, they gave us no guidance on this mission until we screwed up. None of us had any idea what we were supposed to be doing. Most of what we were supposed to do was told to us in our 1st week, which seemed like a century ago. So I wasn't too hard on myself.

So I had to get us pointed in the right direction, at the same time get us in the right formation, then had to brief my new navigator (no one wanted to volunteer), and then the platoon needed a briefing, but we got it, and took off. It seemed like even DS Carter was impressed, so I was feeling pretty proud of myself. Of course, shortly thereafter we got punished, maybe to keep my head on level. Instead of only having 4 casulties to bring back, DS kept injuring and killing people (no one get's left behind). That made it hard. Some guys were too lazy or too weak to carry the others, so we had to do it all in shifts. I unded up carrying a guy on my back for half a mile. Definitely got strong this morning.

In the afternoon we had to walk out about two miles to find some downed helicopter pilots, then carry them back. We were really squared away on this mission though, but it was tiring nontheless. Pounders and myself did more than our share of carrying, so DS Carter "injured" our arms so we couldn't carry anymore, just lead. We still made it though, and felt pretty good afterwards, being the only group that made it. (Or so we were told).

Our last mission of the day was to defend our position against 3rd platoon. They screwed up big time, so we easily won that battle. It's strange to put an actual person through the sites of a weapon and pull the trigger, but it quickly became pretty natural. We fire "blanks", and those trigger the lazer attached to the M16, which hopefully, sets off the lazer on the opposing force. It seems pretty realistic, and we all got into it... quite fun.

All the missions today were pretty fun. I'm dead tired, but this FTX, which I dreaded, is becoming the most fun part of basic to date. Being a squad leader is cool too, because I get to make up the battle plans. Sort of makes all the crap I had to deal with the past three weeks worth it.

Vollrath and I spend the rest of the night chilling out, trying to make our foxhole perfect, doing what we could to feel clean. He was having problems with his ladyfriend, so I tried to help out with whatever I could. A lot of guys seem to be losing their girls here, probably because we need the "outside world" so much more than they need us. Being so secluded for long helps us appreciate things we learned to take for granted when we were civilians. The things I've learned about myself, and how to transition into the person that I want to be are interesting. Everyday I find it easier to know what I need to do to accomplish the goals in my life. I'm starting to realize that basic training is just as much learning self discipline, as it is to road march, fire and M16, keep things clean, etc.

When basic training ends, I'm going to be happy, proud, probably a bit reluctant to leave. It's the first time I've spent time learning about myself as a personality, rather than reading some philosophy book or socialogy, forming my opinions as a melting pot of other people's opinios. FTX, and being a squad leader is making a profound change in me, and I am now greeting it with open arms. I hope everyone that comes to basic has an open mind and takes things for what they are worth, rather than just another painful experience, or perhaps, the worst experience of your life. If you are pretty hard headed, and reluctant to change, I think it just could be. It's all a game and it's only going to be as hard as you let it be.


Final FTX - - day 03

Fire Guard last night was too easy. I went to bed at 2100, but I got up at 0200 because of my poison ivy. Damned stuff just will not let me sleep. I need to go to sick call and get rid of this itch, but I'm actually more concerned with how difficult it is to get my boots on, and bend my ankles. Seriously, this crap is all over my body. And I mean exactly that, all over my body. I took another guys fire guard because I was awake (25% tonight). It's calming and peaceful to be awake on a cool night under the stars. Especially with all the chaos during the day.

There was no gas this morning, so Hackett and I set up a guard against the Drill Sergeants so our squads could sleep until 0630. Just a modified version of a fire guard really, worked quite well...

DS Carter told us we had an easy day. OUr whole platoon defended against 1st plt. It was sort of lame though. 1st plt. really isn't that cool, and they were doing some cheap moves, and a lot of them didn't have any MILES gear on, so it sucked.

The afternoon we packed up all our stuff into the duffle bag. Vollrath and I put a lot of time into this. We got way more than most people, and were left with almost nothing in our rucksacks to carry on the 15K. A smile crept across my face when I put the ruck on, the 15K just became a whole lot more manageable, and I needed all the help I could get with the stupid Poison Ivy.

We buried our beautiful foxhold, only to be told later by DS Cook we still needed it. So we had to re-dig. Probably so that we had something to do till dinner chow. A guy smuggled in a disposable camera, and offered a picture for 10 bucks. I decided to do it, 10 bucks for a picture, but it'll be pretty unique. So Vollrath and I posed in our foxhole. We won't get it until grad day though.

I got caught by a DS chewing gum from a MRE, a few hours after DS Carter smoked my squad for chewing gum. Not good. The DS asked what I was doing chewing gum, and I told him I was going to the latrine to spit it out. Of course, he saw right through my bullshit, then DS Carter came out of the tent, "that's not Malcore, is it?... Go back and tell the entire platoon I've got something for them" Great... So after we formed our circle to sleep in, we got smoked quite good. Lots of running with all our gear on. Afterward everyone was in a bad mood that we'd be sore for the march, yelling at each other, so I confessed to them I was a gum chewer. (there were others, but I was the only one that admitted to it). So everyone tore into me for a bit, then I got defensive, and it was just a bad situation.


So all we have to do to get out of this FTX (which was actually quite fun), is a little walk to the CCC course. Granted, it's 15K away...

I could not sleep last night. I was waking with the poison ivy itches every half hour, seriously. My fireguard was at 0200, so when that was over I just stretched out my body until 0300. We got up, did some more stretches, and the 15K road march begins...

It started pretty difficult, up and down a lot of hills. You know, let us use all our energy right away. Mostly it was sharp inclines, then slowly come back down... death. We had our first break 45 mins in, and most of the battery had fallen way behind. DS Cook then came up and yelled at us four squad leaders. "If anyone falls out, you'll be re-doing the 15K Sunday morning with them." (fallouts redo the road marches on a track, while being timed) After that was brought to my attention, I felt it best to fall back to the rear of our platoon to make sure no one gets behind me. We made the next leg (60 mins, I timed it all for this journal entry) ok. No problems with falling out, but a few guys had equipment problems, so I'd stop, help them fix it, then sprint back up to the platoon. That sucked.

After we pushed on again, a lot of people started having problems. It was hard to keep them in front of me. I was feeling quite good on this march too. I drank two canteens every hour, plus the stretching. I think that helped the most. I actually, at this point even, felt better about this march than any other one. We took our final break with about a mile and a half left till the CCC course, our destination. My estimation was this march would fall around the 20-25K mark, based on the time it took us and the pace we "walked". DS Newsome (3rd Plt.) commented on how "slow" we were marching. "You'll never walk this slow for the rest of your life." Pmfff... I was thinking to myself that I don't think I'll ever walk this fast again.

So, after our third and final break, we took off. The guys in front of me were hurting bad. One of them got sick in the ditch, some had rolled ankles. Everyone had sore backs, legs, and feet. The thing bothering me besides the repitition of walking so far, for a long time, was my feet. But I could tolerate it, and I still had to keep everyone in front of me. At one point someone wanted me to push them, while another was hanging onto the back of my ruck. Anything, as long as I only have to do this once.

The end was a beautiful site. The CCC course. There was loud music, and a bunch of cadre hanging out. We dumped our gear, with the exception of a canteen cup, and got in formation.

Next was a big presentation. Some guys were selected to say a phrase of the soldier's code, and then we started to make the "grog". It was a huge pail, and inside of it, the DS's, when called upon, would add an "ingredient". These ranged from shoelaces, to dirty socks, a boot, etc. For instance, DS Carter added sand to represent Desert Storm, DS Folkes added rice, symbolizing Vietnam. Coke, seltzer water, grape juice, coffee grounds, powdered sugar, brown sugar, and other things were all added into the grog. SDS Chandler was all fired up too. He kept stirring it with his arm. SDS is always fired up, but he was really going this morning, seriously intense.

Before we got to enjoy the grog, we had to run the CCC course. Squad leaders lead the way... I remember how tired I was the first time we did this, but I was good this time. About half way through there was a little mud to crawl through, and I was pretty concerned about it, not wanted to make it difficult to clean my BDU's. However, when I got to the back crawl, it just didn't matter. They had a hose in the sand there.

We crawled on our backs under barbed wire for 20 meters, in 6 inch deep water. I was quite messy after that. All they way down my shirt and pants was sand mud dirt water. I went to yell at the rest of the platoon that hadn't started yet. Pvt. Carter thought I took off my BDU top and just had my undershirt on I was that brown.

All finished, it was time to get a cup of the punch. We all raised the cups together, and drank it down. It seriously wasn't that bad though, sort of tasted like Kool-Aid, but the aftertaste was pure coffee. If there wasn't coffee and sand, I probably would have asked for another cup, but those two ingredients were quite nasty.

At about 0930, we finally got our MRE's. We felt good, dirty as ever, taste of coffee in our throats, sand in our teeth, and as sore mentally and physically as I've been during the entire BCT duration, but it's all good. Our last bit of training was done. All we do now is clean. How difficult and stressful can that be?

Back at the barracks, we dumped our gear and got under the hose. Us squad leaders got the prestigious job of hosing off our squad, then we undressed in the stairwell, and proceeded with Phase VI.

We sent our clean BDU's to the dry cleaners to be pressed, then seperated all of our TA-50 gear (rucksack, LBE, etc). It's good to be getting in a bed again.

05092003 - 07092003

Phase IV

I had no idea this could be so bad. Basically, we clean our gear, then the barracks, then get it all laid out dress right dress, and ready for inspection Monday afternoon.

My squad was assigned to cleaning all of the rucksack stuff, and the entrenching tool (e-tool). Tons of work to be done, and we had about a day and a half to get it all done. I got my squad pretty squared away, everyone got a task, but then I took off...

Friday Morning - -

Instead of getting ready for PT (like every normal morning), I put on my BDU's and went to sick call with Nitz. We had to be ready to go at 0445, to eat at a different DFAC, so we could be ready to go for sick call earlier. We ate at the AIT DFAC, and it was at least 100x better than ours, plus, we got a solid 30 mins to eat, and we got to watch ESPN. Nitz and I ate way too much food. It was breakfast, greatest meal of the day, so we really overindulged.

Nitz and I wanted to make this last until lunch, so we get the same DFAC. In order to do this, Nitz had to exaggerate his reason for being there. I suggested he add "suspected bronchitus" to his "cold symptoms" excuse he already had. Anyway, we got into regular sick call instead of self care (non-prescription drugs). Sick call was pretty cool, got my blood pressure taken, which was low. I guess that's not good either.

Anyway, I got in to see Maj. Martine, who is the commanding officer of the TMC (troop medical clinic). I told him I had Poison Ivy. He didn't look at it, or ask any questions... just started prescribing drugs. I ended up with all this stuff to go back to the barracks with. Being in a good mood, I thought I'd see the dentist and get a root canal finished up. I went to late though, and they almost denied me service, but I turned on the Pvt. Malcore charm, and won them over. I had to wait a bit, but with CNN on TV and a slew of magazines, I really didn't care. I sat about 15 mins, then they told me to come back after lunch. Fine with me, I didn't mind missing the cleaning hassles anyhow.

Back at Phase IV, the DS wouldn't let us squad leaders do cleaning. We were just inspectors, then when something wasn't up to standard, we'd be the ones to get hammered. I got ripped apart a few times, but for the most part, 3rd squad was doing a pretty good job.

Back to Dental... the waiting area is quite nice, but the working area is another story. It's like an office cubicle thing, all out in the open. It basically felt like I was in a warehouse. There was a bunch of dentists and assistants running around, waiting for their turn at someone's mouth. It definitely wasn't relaxing. I sat for maybe 5 mins, they checked me out, and told me they were pulling out my tooth.

They drugged me up big time though. Yanked it out, giving me more shots the whole time. It made my mouth feel pretty messed up, but I didn't feel any pain. The whole time took maybe 20 mins, and 10 of it was spent waiting for the shots to kick in.

They wanted to put me on quarters, but I begged against it. They sent me off with a three day profile..."light duty" (no PT for 2 days) and some heavy painkillers. I got a lot of medication today.

Nitz got put on 48 hour quarters, becuase they wanted to find out what was going on. All my fault too, just because we wanted to eat a better lunch.

When I got back we still had a lot of work to do. Somehow, miraculously we finished up by dark. We ended up staying up till 0100 anyhow though, trying to get stuff squared away.

Saturday Morning - -

I didn't have PT this morning, thanks to the profile. The only training I've ever missed of BCT, not too bad. Last night was the first time I didn't wake up with the poison ivy itch in over 2 weeks. The drugs must be working.

The other 3 profiles went back up to the barracks to sleep, but I decided against it and swept the stairwell to absolute perfection. It was so boring, it would have been more fun to do PT.

We drew our M16's and were to spend all day cleaning them. I on the other hand, did not have this option. First, I had to inventory all the TA-50 gear, then collect money for uniforms, then get lists of stuff needed from them PX, and get money for that. It might seem like nothing, but when you are doing those things all at wonce, when I was supposed to be cleaning my weapon, not to mention half the platoon asking me the same goddamned questions over and over again. It's just hard to deal with. I sort of lost it with a few people, Blessel was a moron a few times, and I really laid into him. I just had to ask him if he makes a conscious effort to make my tasks as difficult as possible. Every hour of this crap I seem to lose more and more patience. I'll be honest, it's not fun being class leadership for this part of BCT. It actually really sucks. The only time it was fun was the FTX. Believe me, it's not good to be leadership in basic. I don't know why everyone strives for it so much. If someone tells you otherwise, they either like the "power", have a squared away platonn, or had basic in an experimental battery.

One of the guys in the platoon, of lower intelligence, had $140 stolen from his wall locker. (probably misplaced). Our entire platoon stood in formation for 2 hours, no talking, moving, latrine. No joke, that was hell. DS Cook in our ears, telling us we were f'd

Everyone else now had 2 hours of cleaning ahead of us. The money never turned up, even after a few locker inspections. Messy, messy. But I wasn't surprised.

About 90% of our platoon spent the rest of the day cleaning weapons. The rest of us did the latrine and barracks. Only about 10 soldiers total. At night we set up our TA-50 display. There is a certian way that everything has to appear on the bunks. and this is the army, everything has to be dress-right-dress. Totally crazy. Digging through cleaned stuff, some of it still wet or dirty. I'm trying to get my stuff good and done first so the rest of my squad can look at it, but everyone is, once again, asking me the same questions all at the same time. It's amazing that I got everything done without punching someone in the face.

Lights out at 0200, however, squad leaders much later.

Sunday Morning - -

What do you know? A record number of people are going to church today. The most important day of Period IV, and they are going to church. Why does this bother me? Church is cool and all, and I definitely appreciate the importance, but most of the guys going have never been the entire time, when the DS specifically said that if there was a day that we could miss, it would be sunday morning. 4 people in my squad are not done with there displays yet, so I'm forced to do them myself. I spent at least an hour on each, doing 100% of thier display for their lazy asses. They got put on fireguard for that. (2 from our entire plt. went the week before, and there was at least 15 gone this week) If they would skip church to call home, then I would hope they skip church to take care of their responsibilities.

After lunch 10 of us cleaned the barracks once again, while the rest cleaned weapons. I was forced to pay a guy 10 to shine my boots, and then another 15 to clean my weapon. There was no way I would have gotten them done otherwise. Stupid waste of 25 dollars. Conlon and myself were really the only ones doing anything at all. The only thing good about everyone shamming out of the barracks was that Vollrath got the floor looking terrific.

At night, DS Carter came to show us how to put on our medals on our Class A's. I got my "expert" grenade badge and "marksman" rifle medal.

Getting all my stuff to line up isn't really that fun either, to be perfectly honest. We spent a lot of time with a ruler and various coins to get proper positioning. Greer is like DS Cook's lost son, so he's get's all his stuff done for him, then he rips on Conlon and myself for taking so much time getting our uniforms together.

We did get to bed at 2300 though, which was only because DS Carter didn't want us passing out because of sleep deprivation during the inspection. We will have all sorts of Cmd. Sgt. Maj.'s and Commanders around tomorrow, that should be fun.

The past three days were probably the most stressful consecutive of my life. I didn't even want to wake up in the morning, which isn't really that different from any morning, but I just wanted to run and hide when I thought of everything that had to be done. I'm constantly in 5th gear, running around trying to do four things at once. One more morning, and in the afternoon the pain will end. I really don't care about winning anymore, i just want to get it over with. From what DS Carter tells us, we don't have a chance.

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