Letter From Basic Training – March 22, 2004


Dear Mary Beth,

    I’m sitting in a classroom waiting to learn more about map reading.  Today seems to be an easy day.  More to do than yesterday, but it is mostly learning stuff, map reading and introduction to weapons.  I’m listening to the drill sergeant tell everyone what is happening in the NCAA tournament.  I am fortunate that my dad sent me the bracket.  Now I have to hope I get some results soon.  I miss watching it a lot.

[all my life, whenever I am away from home, my dad will send me sports clippings or save them for when I get home.  Sometimes I did not appreciate, for example,  a big stack of high school wrestling articles, five years after I graduated.  But when I was in basic training, every little thing was awesome, because there’s nothing to read and not much to do in your free time.  Also it was great to be the only guy who could keep up on sports and current events.]

    This morning we did an ability run, where they split you up into groups by your time on the mile last week.  There are a lot of good runners, so they split us into 4 groups A1, A2, B and C.  A1 and A2 are the same.  We only ran 2 miles and you are supposed to stay together, but for some reason a lot of guys couldn’t keep up.  I did good (I’m in A2) but next time to make it harder I’ll run on the outside of the track.

[One trick I learned is that after they announce the ability groups, they just would say “break down into your groups” but not check them.  So if you were sick, you could run with B or C, and if you wanted a challenge, you could run with A1]

     I’m still sick from last week.  I feel ok, but my throat is sore and I’ve had this cough for almost 2 weeks.  I’m thinking about going to sick call tomorrow again.  i have until about 9 PM to decide, but I can’t change my mind in the morning.
    Now it is lights out.  The pen from before I borrowed from one of my buddies.  I got mail today and finished in first place again with five letters – two from you (thank you) one from my dad, one from my Grandma and Grandpa and one from Andy [my brother].

[damn what a competitive jerk I was.  I hope I was kidding about the “first place” thing.  I think I was.

    After the drill sergeant passed out the mail (he’s drill Sergeant Sansbury, the youngest guy, 29, I think with red hair, who’s cool and says “f*ck” a lot) he says “show of hands, who didn’t get any mail?”  Some guys raised their hands and he goes “Ha ha!”  It was really funny.

    I have a nickname now that started before at Reception.  It’s “Coach.”  I don’t know why but these three kids started calling me that and now a lot of guys do.  I definitely don’t mind because it pre-empts worse nicknames, like dickhead or something.

[In reception, this guy, Futch, who was a former MMA fighter, and almost knocked Byrd through the ceiling [see March 9] started it.  The day before we were talking about our former jobs and he couldn’t remember my name, but remembered that I said I used to be a wrestling coach, so he called out “Hey, Coach.”]

3/15 I could go for some bacteria media right now. [Mary worked in some lab]  I’m always so hungry after dinner.  A lot of times the drill sergeants go into their office with pizza and I crave it.

[Layton would “steal” packets of Saltines from the chow hall.  I put steal in quotes because we could eat them, but we were forbidden to bring food out; maybe “smuggle” is a better word.  We’d eat dinner at maybe 5 o’clock and not go to bed until 11.  We would be so hungry.  He would share his packets of Saltines with me after the drill sergeants left for the evening.  That’s a good battle buddy.  In case you’re wondering, the first couple weeks of basic training are called “red cycle” or total control.  That means that each platoon has at least one drill sergeant 24 hrs a day, and 2-3 during the daytime.  If you figure out that we had 3 drill sergeants and 24 hours in a day, that means some pretty long hours for them.  After a few weeks, they go to a system where 2-3 drill sergeants will be there during Monday-Saturday and on nights and Sundays, there would be one drill sergeant on duty for the whole company. So you could get away with a lot more.  If the drill sergeant was cool, he’d assign you some cleaning and then leave you alone.  If they were jerks, they’d call formation every half hour and make everyone do pushups and yell a lot.  There were different colored cycles, I can’t remember any more of them, but each one meant that you got a few more privileges back.]
    Today was cold here, like 70 degrees at the hottest, maybe 55 degrees in the morning.  A nice day, but the kids from California and Florida were complaining.  Not me.  We have to hike four miles tomorrow so I hope it stays that way.    BTW I did not call that Monday night or whenever you asked about.  Luckily, you’ve answered evertime I called.  I hope we get phone privileges soon.  I can’t wait to go to the dentist, I haven’t been in 5 years.

[You know you’re a real adult when you look forward to visits from the dentist.  They are free.  However, there’s only so much they can do.  There was this one kid in another platoon with one rotty looking tooth in the whole front of his mouth.  They did not give him dentures or anything.  Then one of the drill sergeants knocked the tooth out semi-accidentally]
I want to write more and to other people and my website journal but I am sick and tired so I’m going to get some sleep.   Please send pictures.

I gotta tell you the scam the Army pulled on us in our next letter. [the whole PX scam I referred to earlier]

PS. How is Maryanne doing with Dan?  I may write her if I get more time.  [I was a personal trainer and I had to farm out all my clients to other trainers when I left.]


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