Monday, December 15, 2008

Basic Knowledge

For today, a blessedly short Military Monday.

Here's the basics about Basic Training. At least these were applicable to my BT. There are about 24 women per squad and 4 squads per platoon. (Now, I know some Hu-Ah Army person is going to come and correct my terminology but let me reiterate - I was not a great soldier. I was a pogue earning some college money.)

Each squad had 3 drill sgt.'s. Out of those 3, one was in charge. My drills were:

DS McCoy - tiny and in charge. A very dark-skinned, tiny, wiry, black woman. The only female drill in our platton, she was unbelievably hard-core and could do more diamond push-ups then the men. (A diamond push-up is when you put your hands together on the ground with your thumb-tips touching and your index-fingertips touching to form a diamond - F'in hard!) (The diamond push-up is F'in hard, not making the diamond shape with your hands.)

DS Beaufort - This cat was straight off the New York block. Tall, slim, mocha brown with the accent, the walk, the attitude and the gold front tooth. He'd finagled some sunglass tint on his Army issue glasses (not easy to get) and wore them everywhere. He loved to give us wrong information and see how long it took for some other DS to yell at us for doing wrong. Funny guy.

DS Brown - Husky, dark-skinned, quiet, very intelligent man. He was probably our favorite. Quick to smile, but taking no bullshit from any soldier, he was a great guy. (Much later, turned out to be not so great but we'll get to that someday.)

Our barracks during BT were different then the ones at Reception. There were actual rooms. Rooms without doors, but rooms nonetheless. There were 4 wall lockers and 2 sets of bunkbeds per room. Still had communal showers (one shower tower with shower heads around the top) but at least you didn't have 100+ clamoring women in a big communal bedroom like Reception.

You were assigned rooms and your Battle Buddy (BB) was the person who shared your bunk bed set. My BB was Blondie (we were all given nicknames almost immediately by the DS's). She was one of the "old ladies" in our squad. She was 24. Her hair was shortish and thick, curly and blonde. She had a husband and 2 little boys back home and had joined the military for the benefits. Her husband joined too and would go to BT when she came home from hers. They grew up dirt poor and saw the Army as their only way out. She loved to do my hair for me since, with little boys, she never got to utilize her perfect braiding skills at home. I was very thankful for her skills since, as you can see in my last Military post, my skills (or lack thereof) were getting me in trouble.

My squad had all the "old ladies". At 20 (soon to be 21), I was one of them. The 3 other squads all had roughly the same age girls - 17-19 years old. My squad ranged from 17-32 years old. Didn't make for the best dynamic, but whaddayagonna do? The older girls (including me) would get disgusted at the younger girls who would often cry for no reason or try (unsuccessfully) to pull that, "I'm just a girl" thing to get out of doing stuff. The younger girls would be disgusted with the older girls for bossing them around.

Once you were done with Reception, you were given a set of linens and packed on to a bus taking you to your BT proper. Everyone is nervous as hell - excited and giggly and scared. Once you get to your new BT digs, a drill sgt. gets on and calmly says, "OK, soldiers, get off the bus and get your duffel bag and line up according to your assigned squad." We all look at each other questioningly as we've not been told what our assigned squad will be.

This is where Shock Treatment starts. The drill starts hollering and yelling and rushing us from here to there and it's all a big cluster-F. As it's intended to be. They want you as disoriented and scared as they can make you. My friend David warned me all about this, so I knew it was coming. (I told more about that here.)

The bus is on one side of the wide sidewalk where we are to line up in our squads. The truck with our duffel bags is on the other. Not the short side, the other end - about a block away. The soldiers on that truck are just dumping them off onto the ground so they can split back to their cushy jobs at Reception. We have to dig through these 50lb. full bags trying to find ours. I had a couple dumped onto my head as I was digging through the mess. The latch on one, ripped a chunk of my hair out. I remember thinking what bastards those guys were and then remembering, "Oh yea - Army."

While you're trying to find your bag, the DS's are calling out names to say who is in what squad. You've got to keep an ear open and an eye on whoever said your name so you know where to stand. In the insane chaos, it's not that easy.

Once you're all in squads, the fun really begins. There's much more yelling and hollering on the part of the DS's and it's not about anything specific. Let the mind games begin....!

After all that, they take you inside the barracks and assign Battle Buddies and rooms. They show how to put your stuff in the wall locker and it's all oddly specific. This stuff folded this way, these T-shirts rolled that way and placed here in the wall locker. There's a small 2-drawer, metal nightstand type thing in your wall locker for the stuff that gets folded. There's a diagram on the inside of your wall locker door to tell you how/where everything's supposed to be. And hell to be paid if it's not exactly like the picture.

One of the tricks we learned early on was to keep the bed made and hide an extra sheet in the wall locker. You'd sleep on top of your made bed and under your extra sheet. Trust me, those extra 2 minutes of sleep because you don't have to make up your bunk - heaven. Of course, if you were caught with the extra sheet in your locker, the DS would dump your whole locker and your bunk and you'd lose about 30 minutes putting it all back together again!

Next week, chow hall etiquette and PT, Ruth!


kmkat said...

We still fold all our t-shirts the way Smokey was taught in the Navy. #2 son recently told me he is trying to get his girlfriend, who does his laundry, to fold them that way. The advantage is that one can see at a glance what t-shirts are in the drawer instead of having to dig through a pile.

Your tax dollars at work.

Becca said...

Can I just say? Lucky!! I was at Jackson for BT starting Nov. 90. I had DS Brown, too, but I kinda doubt it's the same one. We were still in the huge open bays! And thanks to impending Desert Storm (Our Xmas exodus was cancelled and we spend the holiday in BT, fun. The ground war started 2 weeks before we graduated.), each platoon had over 60 soldiers. They put bunks in any open space they could find.

Also, the only place we were allowed to disrobe was in that bathroom. 60 women all crammed into a bathroom with 5 stalls, rushing to change in 5 minutes. If you were caught taking off any clothes in the bay, that was baaad news.

I take immense pleasure in stuffing DH's sock in his drawer without rolling them at all. Can't quite shake the tshirt habit, though.

Nell said...

Because I know so little about the military, I love these stories. They are totally fascinating!