Letter From Basic Training – March 14, 2004 – CQ and Grits


Dear Mary Beth,

    I’m writing this letter while I’m on CQ duty.  That means i have to sit at a desk with my battle buddy and answer Echo Company’s phone, which I doubt will ring  Also we have to do small cleaning tasks.  I was glad that I volunteered to sweep the laundry room, becasue when it was time to clean out a mop bucket, I did not have to do it.

[in the beginning, the drill sergeants made out the CQ/fireguard roster.  Then they would put one or two of the nightly cleaning tasks next to each shift, but it was usually only like 15 minutes of work]

    Basic training sucks a lot and it is a lot different than 30th AG Reception.  I am doing all right though even though I can’t march for sh*t, and I got screamed at this morning because I was out of step.  It is hard to be on the front of the formation, becasue you can’t see the guy in front of you.  I’m not allowed to be at the front anymore, which is fine with me.
    I miss you a lot and it was hard barely getting to talk to you on the phone the last two times.  Also, last time I really missed you because I heard you at a party or something with a bunch of people and I was lonely.

[dirty whore]

    Our new platoon has only 55 guys in our own bay.  At reception, there were 110 in our bay (two platoons) so we have much more room now.  Also we have wall lockers, so we don’t have to cram all of our stuff into bags.
    Everybody is sick.  I have a cough that I’m hoping will go away.  A lot of guys went to sick call, but I don’t want to miss training time.

[idealistic nerd.  On the other hand, they make it such a pain in the neck, that you don’t really want to go.  Also, you don’t know what training is actually going to prove useful later and you don’t want to fall behind your buddies.  On the other hand I once heard some drill sergeants talking.  Three of them said “Ha, I NEVER went to sick call.  Lazy pussy privates.”  The only one who had been deployed said “Are you kidding, I used to go as much as I could get away with.”  Basically, you will get sick and go to sick call.  Hope it’s nothing serious so you don’t get recycled – the basic training equivalent of having to repeat a grade]

We have not got a platoon leader or squad leaders yet, like I was at Reception.  I hope it will not be me as this is enough work as it is.  I don’t want to have to tell guys to do things or be in charge of marching.
    Basic is pretty awful.  We get up at like 4, and do PT.  They march us out to this big sand pit which is a lot like being on the beach, except there’s no water.  We do exercises which aren’t so bad at all, except that we have to do them with the whole company of 220 guys.  If we don’t do them all together, then we have to do pushups.  If we f*ck anything up at all, we have to do pushups, or flutterkicks.  The pushups and flutterkicks are way harder than the actual PT.

[I’m guessing that the drill sergeants are evaluated on how we do on our PT tests, but at the same time required to make us do this gay WWI aerobic class PT.  So they get around us by constantly smoking us.]

Today I think we’ve done 350 pushups and it’s only 4 PM.  After we do PT, we marach around a bit, get yelled at by the drill sergeants, and then we go to chow.  Before we eat, we have to go through this big production.  First we march there, then we do chinups, then we do trivia about the army, then we sing these songs and recite the soldier’s creed, and the new improved infantryman’s creed which is three times as long as the soldier’s creed they made us learn at Reception.  When we go in, we approach the desk of the woman who works there and say “Good morning ma’am.  Regular Army, 6660, ma’am”  (6660 is the last four of my social).  Then while we are in line, we have to sidestep, holding our trays out in front of us while they dump food onto them.  We don’t get a choice, they just put it on there randomly.  So sometimes one guy will get roast beef and the next guy gets meatloaf.  It doesn’t really matter though because you are so hungry you will eat anything.  The other day I had baked fish, which I hate and I ate it in about 3 bites.  There is only one exception.  I always get grits for breakfast and I hate them.  I won’t eat them.  They are nasty like the food from Matrix.  We also have to drink nothing but two glasses of water with meals.  We have five minutes to eat, no talking and no looking around.  If they catch you talking, they throw you out.  So guys just look straight ahead and shovel food in.

[I got around the Grits thing by telling the ladies that I’m allergic, if the drill sergeants are not watching. Only one time one of them asked what I was allergic to.  I said “grits”.  She said “What?” and I said “I’m allergic to wheat.” Which she accepted, despite the fact that I had toast on my tray and that I don’t think grits are made of wheat.  Other times I would calculate every other man getting grits, count off the number of places to the front of the line and trade places with the guy behind me.  Don’t get caught by the drill sergeants doing this.  But usually all but one are already sitting down eating and the one guy has a lot to supervise.]

This place is like a hellish prison, but I don’t mind it that much.

[two things I’ve noticed – in one paragraph I’ll say that basic is awful, the worst ever, then in the next I’ll say it’s not bad at all.  This is true.  Also, I constantly write “he was like ….” instead of “he said….” which makes me sound like a valley girl.  I guess I want to stress that I’m paraphrasing]

I know what I have ahead of me is even harder, and this will prepare me.  You really learn to appreciate certain things like free time, or changing out of dirty smelly clothes into a comfortable t-shirt and shorts, instead of putting the same clothes on the next day.  I’m sick of these BDUs it took so long for us to get.  I think my boots are breaking in.  Our drill sergeant said that having your big toes be numb is a normal thing and to give it a week or so.

[for some reason both of my big toes went totally numb.  The boots they gave me were great, though – I still have them and wear them.  Not the best for when the temp is over 70 degrees though]

    Our drill sergeants are pretty cool, but they are like good cop-bad cop.  They can be really nice, and be like “Dude, don’t worry about spit shining your boots, just knock the dirt off of them, because you guys will be getting them all f*cked up every single day anyway.”  Then they make us pump out 75 pushups for not lining up our boots in a straight line or something.  Our senior drill sergeant is Drill Sergeant Swartz, he kind of looks like a killer accountant.  We also have two others.  One is Drill Sgt. Fuller who is a prick, he’s the one who shouted in my face this morning, and the other one is Drill Sgt. Sansbury, he’s young and has red hair and talks exactly like the stoner Jay (Jay and Silent Bob) from Clerks and Mallrats, etc.  He has a broken nose and he says stuff like, “Dudes, pick up your fucking shit so it’s not all fucked up, hooah?”  Hooah is what people say in the army, it means all right, cool, understood, kick ass, a lot of different stuff.  For example, “Let’s go shine our boots!  Hooah?!” to which the listeners respond back, “Hooah”.
    We have classes in lecture halls like in college, but they are like no college class ever, except maybe at West Point.  The classes might be on using your gas mask, loyalty, or going AWOL, and everyone has to sit up very  straight and pay attention.  If you fall asleep, you are brutally punished, and someone walks around and checks.  The problem is, it is really hard to hear, and the drill sergeants sit in the back and talk, which is f*cked up.  There’s no microphone, so if you are in the back, you hear nothing.  I only pay attention when it is something important like gas masks, otherwise I write these letters like during a lecture on “Duty to your Country” or something like that.

[We had so many required blocks on things like “Not Stealing” that either everybody knew, or wouldn’t pay attention to because they were thieves, that basic skimped a bit on things that would keep us alive later.  For example, we never drove a vehicle.  We never used a 50 cal or a MK19 grenade launcher. On the other hand, they at least made some kind of effort to teach us marksmanship, room clearing, discipline, etc.  More about basic training subjects later.]

    A lot of kids are feeling a lot more stressed and depressed than me, though.  One of my friends from 30th AG, Pyle, told his drill sergeant he was going to kill himself.  They put all the 18X guys in two platoons here, mostly, and the other two are mostly all infantry.  The problem in mine is that most of the other guys are smart, focused and in good shape, so it is important not to be the weak link, because there aren’t really any dumbasses you can use as scapegoats.


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