Letter From Basic Training – March 24, 2004


Dear Mary Beth,

3/18    I’m glad you’re taping the Chapelle show.  i’m so cut off from pop culture.  People here make jokes about what was hot three weeks ago.  Guys are still going around saying “What did the five fingers say to the face?  SLAP! Cold-blooded.  I’m Rick James, bitch,” and guys will still be saying that in eleven more weeks and laughing about it.

    I’m at sick call today guarding our weapons in the hallway, waiting for my name to get called.  They gave me and some other guys surgical masks to wear because we keep coughing.  We were supposed to do some rope climbing thing and then rappel down.  It’s called Eagle Tower and I’m actually kind of looking forward to it.  I hope I don’t miss it, but if I do I have to make it up anyway.

[nope, was sick both days we went there.  never conquered my fear of rappelling.  Never had to make it up]

    They fed us MREs this morning.  Mine was good, it was Jamaican pork chop and rice.  Meat in a bag that you can cut with a plastic spoon is always nice.  Also there was a bag with spiced apples in it.  Yummy.  And these crackers like Wheatables with jalapeno cheese spread.  The bad thing was mine didn’t come with any candy.

It’s a little after 7 AM and I’m sitting by myself in a deserted hallway of the clinic, waiting for a chest X-ray […]   I have a great tan on my head and hands – they are brown and everything else on my body is pale white.

You asked me some questions and I wanted to answer them
Favorite color – black
Favorite songs: Sweet Child O’Mine – Guns n’ Roses
anything by Biggie Smalls
Release Yo Delf by Method Man
Pour some sugar on me – Def Leppard
We’re not gonna take it
I wanna Rock – Twisted Sister

    By the way, I just got my chest X-Ray back.  They say I have pneumonia and it is contagious so I cannot train, I have to go to the hospital,.so I don’t know if I can even go back and get my stamps and an envelope.  I hope it is all goodness of sleeping and watching TV, and I hope when I get back they don’t put me on profile.  That’s where you hang out with your unit but don’t do any of the fun stuff, just stand around because you are gimpy.  There’s one called no run-jump-march and no-pushup.

[oh, the much coveted no run-jump-march…]

The EMT who took me to the hospital took some kids from airborne school there yesterday who hurt themselves when they landed  and a jumpmaster trainee (training to be an instructor) who landed on his head and got knocked out.

[all airborne school cadre are jumpmasters.  All jumpmasters are not black hats. Disregard if you don’t know what I’m talking about.  It’s not that important ]

 He told me some current events.  Fort Benning is huge, something like 1200 square miles.  I think he said it was like 30×40 miles – not sure if that’s right, but it is big and you take off in Georgia, but parachute down into Alabama.

 You want to hear something weird?  I’m at the hospital now and my nurse who saw me first was Senior Drill Sergeant Swartz’s wife.  She was really nice to me.  Drill Sgt. Swartz is a cool guy.  He has said so many classic quotes; we’re making a list.  He’ll tell jokes about other drill sergeants or kids in other platoons and when we laugh, he yells “Stop Laughing!”  He’ll also go up to guys in the front of the formation and say, “Who the f*ck are you?  What platoon are you in?”  And the poor kid will say, “Second, Drill Sgt.”   And then Swartz will say “Well I’ve never seen you before.  Are you sure?  Echo Company, 2nd Platoon?”  One day he did this to 3 different kids.  It was hilarious.

[I guess you had to be there, but yeah, he’d always pick out the quiet, socially inept types who were dying to be left alone and demand to know who they were, really.]

    I hear they are going to give me an IV antibiotic.  Yuck.  I got this from the kid in the bunk next to me.  He’s the one trying to get out of the army or switch jobs becasue he doesn’t want to be a killer, he wants to be intelligence.  He goes to sick call all the time.  I think he’s jealous that I have pneumonia, and he only has bronchitis.  I get to go to the hospital, and he only gets the infirmary.

    I change that.  I’m only going to the infirmary after all. I just saw a real doctor after sitting in the examining room for over an hour. I  was sitting on the end of the table, then I started to fall asleep.  I didn’t want to because I didn’t want to get in trouble, but I am so tired. Last night I had fireguard so I got 5 hrs sleep. Getting four to 5 hours of sleep is not bad, but we work all day and run around which tires you out, plus being on your feet.  Try going a whole day without sitting down except 5 min at breakfast, lunch and dinner.  It’s tiring.  Usually now though we sit down for classes, but that’s when you fall asleep.  In the morning, you feel like ‘ugh, I’m dead,’ but you have to jump right up and shave so by the time you finish that, you are busy moving fast, so feel tired at that point, but you  immediately start to snooze when you sit.  They know this so they have a drill sergeant walk around the classrooms, looking into peoples’ eyes.  They get mad [or pretend to] when they catch someone, but it is such a frequent occurence.  They tell you to stand in the back if you feel sleepy, but no one’s going to voluntarily stand for two hours.  A lot of times when you come into a classroom, you have to stand at attention for 10 minutes and then shout the company song:

We are the men from Echo Company you’ve heard so much about!
You lock your wives and daughters up whenever we are out!
We fight with knives and forty-fives and broken bottles too!
We are the men from Echo Company, who the hell are you?
Mailed Foot!

Then you put your hand down and hum until someone yells “Sit” or whistles.  Then you take your seat in one motion and sit at attention, hands on the desk, until they tell you to relax. 
    Anyway, so I fell asleep.  But I woke up whten the doctor came in and gave me a breathing machine.  It had a tube that went into my mouth and vaporized Albuterol for me to breathe.  I started to drift off again as I was sitting there.  But Albuterol is a stimulant (same stuff is in an inhaler), so I got a good rush and that always makes me want to write, so I got this letter out and speed-wrote this last page which is why it probably is all jumbled up.
     I’m getting antibiotics, cough syrup, Sudafed, Motrin and an inhaler.
    What I really need is sleep and real food.  They should give us coffee in the Army.  I’m not sure if they are smart because they want to train us to stay awake even when tired, or dumb because half the guys sleep through stuff like first aid, nuclear weapons and guard duty.
    Here’s the infantry song which is my new favorite.  Just like summer camp we sing, chant and yell a lot.  Most of the songs are cool, everyone acts like they hate them but I secretly like most of the songs.

You can hear it in the heat of the jungleYou can hear it across the sea.
It calls out to every freedom-loving man,
The cry of the US Infantry
Follow me!
Follow me!

It has a catchy tune, you’ll have to hear it later.

    I could go for chocolate now.  You?  Any kind of candy, gummi bears, sour patch kids, nonpareils would be good.  And to sit at the cafe at Barnes and Nobles or Borders and drink some fancy kind of coffee while I read stuff.  I miss reading.  All I’ve read in the past 3 weeks besides letters and descriptions of how to kill people, is the headlines of USA Today.  But today in the waiting room I got to read part of a Vanity Fair with Gwyneth Paltrow on the cover.  If you see that one (Feb 2004) steal it from the gym.  I want to finish it.    

    You did have my address mostly correct on your envelopes, but I laughed when I saw that you wrote STC instead of SPC for my rank.  SPC is specialist, which is between private and sergeant.  STC is not real.

  (One sergeant’s 3 ways to stay awake in class: a. Stand up or B. drink water or C. play with yourself)

 It’s noon and I’ve been in this examining room for 3 hours.  BTW I usually don’t read my letters over before I send them, so if you see anything weird or nonsense in them, ask me what I mean.  I got more paper but didn’t have time to mail my letters, so I’ll send it out when I get a chance.  So you may go a day without, but this one is long and hopefully will make up for it.
    I just noticed one of the sheets has only half a page.  Not sure what happened there.  I’m in the infirmary now – just watched Survivor.  It’s laid back like the kid said, just TV, sleep, food and talking to each other.   There are about 8 guys here – only one has a real sickness, the others have what I have – coughitis.  And one guy has bloody noses a lot so he gets to go home. Poor baby.
[ha i laughed then, now i get bloody noses like 2-3 times a day.  It isn’t so funny]


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