Letters from Basic Training – April 11, 2004 – Part III

Then lunch blew. I made a quote that is occasionally repeated in our platoon. “If they have to scoop it onto your plate, it’s going to suck.” That’s because one main course is always veal or something nice, and the other is slop.

[The army loves combining protein and carbs to make it easier to deliver food to the field. Noodles and meat gravy. Hamburger and spaghetti. Rice and chunks of meat-like sauce. I post about this extensively in the Alaska section of my blog (too lazy to find it now). The sergeants/officers will hear the men griping and yell: “Would you rather have MREs?” Yes. Yes we would.]

I got the slop. It’s always trainees serving, so most times, even though they’re instructed to alternate, you can make a fuss and get the good stuff. [usually not so much a fuss, but hiss, ‘Dude, buddy, come on, i’ll hook you up when I’m serving…] But lately there are always drill sergeants by the line. [Probably they couldn’t figure out why they’d serve 180 veal cutlets but only 20 slops] I wouldn’t mind so much if everyone got crap, but it sucks when one guy in front of you gets good stuff. The army must have bought a veal factory because they serve us fried breaded veal at least 6 times a week. I like it, though. [For some reason Alaska had millions of grapefruits all year round. I speculate someone in COOKCOM is bad with decimal points]

[I was pretty good at getting what I wanted in the line, so I’d get all bent out of shape when my machinations occasionally failed. I successfully avoided grits for the entire cycle. Hmmm… eggs and bacon, or a “biscuit” flooded with white gravy and grits? I’m a Yankee, not a crewmate of the Nebuchadnezzar. Get that filthy “Tastee Wheat” off my tray. I’d just wave my hand at the chow hall lady and say “Allergic to grits” (quietly because if a drill sergeant heard me he’d crucify me and the chow hall workers are instructed not to cater to individual whims). You can’t argue with allergies in 21st century America. One time, one grizzled old chow scooper demanded to know what I was allergic to. The problem was I didn’t know what grits were made of, never having cared to investigate. “Wheat,” I guessed. She gave me a weird look, maybe because I had toast on my tray already. (I just checked Wikipedia and found out another reason why – grits are made of corn)]

After lunch we were supposed to do jiu-jitsu, which I was looking forward to because it is a lot like wrestling. But we did bayonet training instead, which last time was the worst thing ever. [note to self, link to old letter/post where I describe the folly of bayonet training using almost the exact same words:] If you needed to fix bayonets because the enemy was closing in and you were out of ammo, you would want to hurry up and throw that thing on. Instead they make us go through a ten-step process that involves unbuckling the bayonet holder on our belts, taking our gloves out of our cargo pocket, throwing down the gloves, taking out the bayonet, holding it up, yelling “Kill,” fixing it, picking up the gloves, buttoning holder, etc. etc. But today it was a little bit better because we learned a lot of stabbing and hitting motions and got to yell “Kill” a lot. That was the turning point of the day. [I must have had sunstroke]

Dinner was much better. I got the veal [lol], and a brownie. Then I said to Layton that the success or failure of today rests on whether we get mail and whether it’s from our girlfriends. He did not get one, he hasn’t gotten one since he got that f*cked up letter about their bills. But I got 3 from you and it made the whole day, especially because the letters were so good. Right now, it’s Tuesday morning. I decided to write a long long letter and send it today.

[continued attempts to get her to send me half-naked pictures]

[I need to go back and look at Mary Beth’s letters to me. My letters are 45% minutiae, 45% sappy sentiment, and 10% attempts to get her to write dirty letters or send dirty pictures to me. Either I was a complete spineless, love-drunk, horny bore, or she was encouraging me by writing similar schmaltz]

[…] By the way, it’s f*cked up that you just got a letter from 3/23. The letters I got last night from you were from 4/4 to 4/9 I think. Also I sent my brother a letter and forgot to put his address on it, just my return address so it took five days to come back. I felt like a dumbass. I was rushing when I sent it out that morning.

Now its Tuesday lunchtime and we just got done shooting the M240B (pronounced em-two-forty-Bravo) It is a sweet machine gun that goes on a tripod or bipod and shoots ammo from a belt. The bullets are bigger too. You lie down and you usually have an assistant gunner hand you the ammo and then you just hold down the trigger. It’s really loud and fun as hell. Every guy ran off the firing line smiling, looking like he just had sex for the first time and couldn’t wait to tell his buddies. [odd choice of similes, but I guess that is one of the best parts of having sex for the first time]

[My mixed response to her musings about getting a motorcycle – pros: she’d look hot, cons: they’re dangerous and if I didn’t learn myself, I’d have to ride on the back of hers]

When I shot the machine gun I was really good at it. I think I’ve found my calling. The drill sergeant made me a peer trainer on one of the guns so I have to teach people about it in a few weeks. Other guys have other specialties like weapons assembly (Layton) [Layton was like an idiot savant with his M4. He could literally assemble and disassemble that thing in something like 6 seconds], first aid [probably the guys that were EMTs in RL], chemical warfare [the dweebs], radios, etc. Mine is the SAW. Squad Automatic Weapon. [Odd, you’d think it would be the M240B since I was so good at it] It looks like the gun Rambo carries [yes, even back then I knew that was an M60, but allow me literary license when dealing with civilians]. I’m psyched.

Tomorrow (Wed) morning we road march 8 miles. Tonight one of the drill sergeants got mad for no reason and made us work out brutally for an hour. I was exhausted and soaked in sweat, but I got out of the last 10 minutes because the other drill sergeant called me in for computer help. Even the drill sergeants call me “Coach” now, which is funny. [direct quote of DS Swartz reported by buddies: “Where’s that kid Crotch?” Couch? That’s it, Coach! The computer guy. You know… the Charlie Brown-looking mother-f*cker”]

[Once it became known that I was computer literate, I was called into the drill sergeants office almost every day, to answer questions like “How do I print this?” (answer: click Print). I’d take as long as reasonably possible to solve the problem so that I wouldn’t have to go back to whatever the rest of the platoon was doing, usually either pushups or cleaning]

We had a cold day today. Spent the whole freaking day shivering and huddling real close to other men. You know it’s cold when guys are practically sitting in one another’s laps outside. [In Alaska, when it’s cold, they let you put on your winter gear pretty much to your own taste. In GA and NC, according to the Army, it is never cold, so you will stay in the “uniform of the day,” even if that’s T-shirt and shorts and it’s 33 degrees outside. Consequently, I’ve been almost as cold down South as I have been in Alaska. Almost.]

On a completely unrelated note, there is no “soft peter” (I think Ty means saltpeter) pill. [I then cite various personal anecdotes to prove that this guy Ty, one of my former co-workers, is full of crap. He was. They didn’t give us any pills, and the drill sergeants ate more of the food (it was free) than we did. Some dudes were jacking off all the time. If you can’t get a boner in basic, it’s because you’re too tired, or because you’re surrounded by other men.]


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