Letter From Basic Training – March 29, 2004 – Road March

29 MAR 04

Dear Mary Beth,

    I’m sorry we were so rudely interrupted in my last letter, but tomorrow we have to wake up at 3:30 for a 6 mile road march.  So the drill sergeant decided we should all go to bed at 7.  Since when do they care about us getting a good night’s sleep?  It’s still light out and hot and everyone’s lying awake.  It feels lke summer when your parents would make you go to bed when it was still light out and you could hear kids down the street playing outside.  I had to wrap up my last letter because since we won’t be around tomorrow, no mail will go out.

    You asked me what we do on weekends.  Saturdays are just like any other day, except we get a little more personal time at night.  Sundays are the greatest day, laundry and letters for me, sleeping in church for everyone else.  The drill sergeants seem to be preoccupied with chores, so they will pop their heads in every hour or so, yell at guys for being rowdy, and get volunteers for work details, so it’s best not to hang around the bay.  Total control ends Friday, unless we greatly f*ck up, so I’ll be able to call you more.  I don’t think we will f*ck up, our platoon was the only one not to have anyone get an Article 15 at that court thing.  I have a lot of fun with Layton and my other pals, I beat him in the PT test, but he beat me in the obstacles.  He beat me in taking apart our rifle, but I made a better dirty poem about his girlfriend than he did about my mom.  We stay up late and do the trivia questions my mom sends us in a big group.  It’s a lot of fun.  What is weird is no one has called me by my first name in a long time, no one knows each other’s first name and it’s a shock to see pictures of each other with long hair, in street clothes.  No one calls each other by the first name because our last names are printed on everything.  Everyone calls me Coach usually, which is fine by me.  There are only two other guys in the platoon who have nicknames that are used more than their names.  Jersey, who’s this little kid with a loud mouth, and Papa Bear aka Father Time, who’s the oldest guy here (30).    

    Monday we did our 6 mile road march, our longest ever.  It is hard with all the gear and holding the rifle makes your arms numb.  I got a big blister on my right pinky toe.  There’s not much I can do about it except wait to toughen up my feet.  The pace we walk would be equivalent to setting the treadmill on 3.2 mph and a 6-7% incline.  Sometimes we go up to 4 mph. 

[which is easy compared to road marches in either Special Forces Qualification or the Airborne Infantry.  Really, there’s nothing like having that big tick on your back, making your shoulders and back sore.  But if you were to try to duplicate a “serious” road march on the treadmill, I would set it to 4.0 mph and about 4% incline.  Then do that for 3 hours.]
What motivated me today besides thinking about you, was the kid in front of me who was lagging behind and f*cking up the formation.  It is supposed to look like this:

    And then if the slow guy in front of you tries to catch up by running, everyone else has to run and running with the ruck sucks.  And if the formation is not spread out, (gotta spread out so snipers and grenades can’t wipe everyone out at once) the drill sergeants scream at you.  This kid, Greenberg, kept lagging and I was right on his ass, and Layton, who was across from him, started ragging on him until the two of them were screaming “F*ck you!” back and forth across the road.  

[So much for keeping things tactical or surprising the enemy – but it was entertaining and motivational.  And when you get into doing a serious road march, you’re gonna have to do a really slow jog to keep up if you’re short or slow.  I talk about this elsewhere on the blog.  The thing is, do it because your legs are too short, not because you’re not in shape.  Don’t do the thing where you walk to recover your wind, then sprint up to the guy in front of you.  That is what screws everyone else up, not jogging at a constant 4.1 mph]

    We do this thing every week where we make a list of the 10 best and 10 worst soldiers in the platoon.  Then they add them up.  Greenberg has finished third worst both weeks, I have not been on either yet, which is good.

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