Dear Mary Beth,
How are you? This morning (Thursday) it rained. This was only the second time it has rained here in a month (knock on wood). I thought Georgia would be hot and moist like a jungle, but it is a dry heat and it hasn’t been as hot as it was the first couple of weeks, or maybe I am getting used to it.
[no, it’s usually hot and moist, we were just lucky and it’s only March-April. Wait until May, June, and July until you make weather pronouncements, idiot]
The TRADOC sergeant major [prounced tray-dock – as in Training and Doctrine. All Army commands have cool names like this, e.g. CENTCOM. I’m going to change the name of this webpage to RUINBLOG] was supposed to come and we were going to do that stupid slow run today while we called cadence, but instead we did PT in the company formation area, which is kind of like an indoor parking garage. We warmed up as a group, which took 30 minutes, Ran 1 shuttle sprint: 6×40 yards which took 1 minute each, then did 20 minutes of cooldown. At least we didn’t get sandy. I was surprised no-one got hurt, sprinting back and forth in such a tiny area.
[Basic PT was always like this. Usually the actual workouts were a little harder, but most of the pain came from waking up at ridiculous times – 430? 500? and standing underdressed in the cold and/or rain, then rolling in a field of sand/mud. Man we did so many pointless arm circles etc. to cadence. A lot of times the hardest workout of the day would be when the drill sergeants would smoke us. General rule of Army PT – the more people simultaneously exercising, the less efficient the workout is.]
Today is qualification day. Wish me luck, but I’ll probably tell you how I did later in the letter.
I just got done and I got a 28 so I qualified as marksman. I was hoping to get Sharpshooter, I wa only two off. Oh well – but thanks for wishing me luck. I’m happy with how I did. They only cared if we got a 24 and that was what scored points against the other platoons – the number of people qualifying their first time – so I was glad I did not f*ck up. We did not win at all – like 8 guys didn’t qualify, but I will probably still get to call you this weekend.
After we qualified we all got camouflage covers for our helmets, which up to this point were just ugly green with white tape with our numbers and names on them. Now we look a little bit more like soldiers.
[Awww…cute little soldiers. No, actually this was a pretty big thing. One of the things the Army does right. Like a “level-up”. You pass by or see in the distance other guys that are more advanced than you and they have things like patches on their uniform, or boots instead of just sneakers or whatever, and you think “man i want to progress in my training so I can be as cool as them.” On the other thing, in the real war, these helmets were only for Pogues and Marines. We wore the MICH helmet (yeah i know saying MICH Helmet is like saying Helmet Helmet – deal with it, it’s what we called them) and not the old “K-Pots” (actually PAGST). Ironically, the real high-speed thing to do in the war, if you could get away with it, was taking off your helmet cover and spray-painting your helmet camouflage colors.
We also got medals that look like this:
Now it is Saturday morning. Happy Easter a bit late. Friday was “detail day.” It’s a long weekend for the Army, so most of the sergeants are home and the ones who are still around split us into work groups doing various tasks. The guys who shot expert were rewarded with hanging around the barracks and sitting at a desk. Our first task was getting our e-tools (collapsible shovels) and spreading rocks and this giant dirt pile across this hillside that was eroding. It would have been a hard job for 15 people, but there were 80 of us, so everyone shoveled a few scoops of dirt and mostly stood around. Then we had MREs for lunch and our next task was picking up sticks and logs from an area in the woods and moving them out of a training area. Then we had to dig holes and fill sandbags for a wall. Once again it was really easy because there were so many people. We had a group of 20 digging our hole.
[Totally the army way. Fifty guys and three shovels. You’re not getting paid by the hour, so it’s no different to them whether you “work” or sit on your ass. I didn’t mind this so much during basic training bc it meant less work for every man. The problem comes later in your unit, when work assignments like this fill your day and you have something else you could be doing.]
I actually didn’t have to dig at all because they just told me to tell jokes and funny stories the whole time to keep everyone amused.
[Ahhh, the perks of being a raconteur/jester. This is something I would end up doing 5 years later on details. I know it sounds weird, but I wasn’t just shamming – okay, I was shamming, but this is something that people specifically asked me to do to entertain them while they worked. You’ll have to trust me, I guess, I haven’t lied to you yet.]
When we got back we just goofed around. I finally got scotch tape to put our picture up. Also Layton drew a funny picture of me and we put it up too. He wrote “Coach” on the bottom. [I’ll look for a pic of that – it was quite a caricature]
Today we went to Eagle Tower, that crazy rappeling place that I missed when I was sick before. But we were doing different stuff today – rope bridges and hanging from ropes and guess what – I didn’t get to do it again because I was one of the last in the line. All I did today was learn about standing in line and a tiny bit about machine guns. We got to go get our haircut today, and that’s about all.
[another level-up – our shaved heads had grown in enough to get our first ugly Army “high and tight”. This is not cool in the “Real Army”. Cool haircuts are “the fade,” “the barely within regs,” and the shaved head (unless your head is wrinkly and stupid looking)]
Tomorrow is Easter and just church and laundry for all. All the drill sergeants are away except for one substitute one so it is like having a babysitter – one distracted babysitter for 220 kids. I called you tonight too…[romantic blather]
Oh yeah a funny thing. Do you know what the Atomic Situp is? It’s where you tell a guy to get in situp position and see if he can do a situp against a towel over his face that the guy behind him is holding. What he can’t see is another guy with his pants down approaching – the victim strains hard against the towel, the towel is quickly removed, and his face goes flying into the guy’s ass. Maybe you already know what that was. I did, but about six guys here didn’t and they all attempted the Atomic Situp, unaware of the danger.
[The real trick was keeping them separated and getting them to come in one at a time. In every group there’s one dirty, hairy, tubby guy confident in his sexuality who will volunteer to be the “ass-man”. No, it wasn’t me. Was this whole operation gay? Yeah. From most homo to least, I would say teabagging, atomic situp, pantsing, mooning. Another digression – I wrote this right after a couple of mushy sentences and sometimes I would draw hearts in the margin. So there’s a heart right next to the atomic situp story. I wonder what she thought of that?]
I calculated today that I am the fourth oldest guy in the platoon. [I was in my mid-twenties. Don’t worry, elder enlistees. You won’t be considered a “geezer” unless you look old – you know who you are. We had one guy who was considered “old”, he was probably in his early thirties, but he just talked and looked like someone’s dad. All this meant is he got some good-natured ribbing. Older enlistees tend to perform better mentally and sometimes even physically.]