Letter From Basic Training – March 5, 2004

1 pm
Friday, March 5, 2009

Dear Mary Beth,

I feel better today because I got more than 2 hours of sleep like I did the last two nights.  Today we got tons of shots one in each bicep, tricep and shoulder, all vaccinations.  Then we took an eye test, got dental x-rays and a mouth guard, practiced singing the Army Song and the Soldier’s Creed.  After lunch we are going to have an inspection.  The worst thing about this place (well one of them) is that they give you tons of uniforms, junk, papers, plus the stuff we have like toothbrushes, dirty clothes, wet towels, etc, and then two big canvas sacks to put them in.

[also known as duffel bags, although I think one was actually a laundry bag]

So everything is piled in these big sacks and everything else has to be spotless.  Making the bed is too hard so I sleep on top of the blankets.  I also have to shave every morning or get fined $300.

[also known as an Article 15]

That’s the number one rule here.  Number two is always be in the right place at the right time in the right uniform.  I forget the number three rule but it is something about respecting officers and NCOs (sergeants).
    I just had a giant brainstorm.  There are a lot of times when we have nothing to do but wait.  Today is one of those days.  We were supposed to have an inspection of our bay (55 bunkbeds in a big room).  So this means that everything has to be tied shut and locked while we wait for fear of being caught unaware.  But at 2 PM, the drill sergeant came in, yelled at us and left after we did pushups.  He made us straighten some stuff out while he was gone, but now it’s 3:30 and he’s still not back.  And we got these books we have to carry around everywhere which are called “smart books”.  So I came up with the idea of folding a piece of paper and writing, then stashing it in my book.  Now I can write to you more.  But the paper will probably be more wrinkled.

[it’s a good thing I did this, or you wouldn’t be reading this blog right now.  And for those of you who are worried, you carry these books around for 16 weeks and have almost nothing else to read.  Even though I spent all my time using the thing as a writing tablet, I still memorized it cover to cover.  Everyone does.]

    Hopefully, the weekend will be more relaxed because the sergeants are real people and go home eventually.  We get to sleep until 5!  You would probably do well here with your early hours.
    Here’s another thing that is annoying here – Bet you’re sick of hearing me bitch, but there is always an uncomfortable way to do things.  If we are waiting in line, we are not sitting, talking or leaning on the wall.  This makes me miss the MEPs where at least we could lounge on couches and read magazines while we waited.  We are not allowed to sit on the beds until 8 PM or maybe never, but right now there is a bunch of guys sitting on the floor next to their bunks.
    Now it’s lights-out 9PM and I’m writing this with my red lens flashlight.  I just got back from calling you and took a shower.  I’m not really tired and I’m actually having fun here.  It’s kind of refreshing to be told exactly what to do at all times.  It also makes you enjoy simple things more, like finally showering or eating or even doing laundry.  We have 110 guys and two washing machines and two dryers.  I was able to get a load of laundry in today which is awesome because we get about 3 outfits and they are all instantly dirty.  [exageration, but yeah, do your laundry in reception and basic whenever you get the chance]

[in this part of the letter we started a hangman game which we continued playing throughout, each trying to guess the other persons puzzles.  It’s kind of amusing to play hangman by mail, but I won’t bore you with it anymore]

    There are all types of guys here, smart guys, dumb guys, fat guys, skinny guys. The youngest guys are 17, the oldest over 30. [39 actually] The average is probably a 21 year old with 2 years of college.
    I was lucky to use the phone tonight. I brought one of my buddies, named Davila.  He was really thankful he got a chance to use the phone and call his girlfriend.

[the rules on phone calls in reception were very lax.  Not only were we allowed to use the row of payphones all the time, but guys would screw over other people by spending as much time as they wanted on them until the guys behind them were howling mad.]

    Now it’s Saturday morning.  We cleaned the place up for the inspection that’s supposedly coming this morning.  Some guys hide and sleep, other guys run around and get all agitated.  The ones who yell at other guys annoy me.

[you’ll be dealing with these two types of people your whole army career.  The utterly useless turd and the guy who enjoys bossing other people around.  Trust me, six years later, I still infinitely prefer the first type and given a choice, most other people do too.  If you had to rake a lawn with 19 other guys, would you rather one person be hiding behind a tree or leaning on it shouting at you?  I thought so.]

It’s raining here now and I still miss you.  I hope I get a chance to call you again today.  Carrying my phone card just in case.  I also hope I can send this letter today.


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