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Surviving Basic Training


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The_Chieftain #1 Posted 01 July 2015 - 01:28 AM

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Going out of “History mode” for this week, and moving to a bit of Op-Ed. I’ve had a couple of folks, including one about to enter the Belarussian army, asking for advice as to how to survive Basic Training.

So, if you’ve already signed the dotted line and are awaiting a ship date, or if you’re seriously considering it, and want to know what to expect, this article is for you. I’m sure that on the discussion link, others will chime in too.

I have had the questionable benefit of having been at the level of ‘just above primordial ooze’ thrice. Once as an Irish recruit, once as a US recruit, and once at OCS. Irish basic as a reservist didn’t really count as a life-changing event, as it was more a couple weeks away on camp, and OCS is kindof like Basic but worse, because you have to make decisions and actually lead (Who’d have thought it?) in addition to being run ragged.

Graduation Day #1. Cathal Brugha Barracks.

Still, here are my thoughts and words of wisdom.

Firstly, if you still have a choice, please do think about what you’re about to do. Tanks/guns etc are cool. I got it. Still, the military life isn’t for everyone. I’m approaching my sixteenth year in the US system, and I’m still not a fan of doing my two-mile run in sub-freezing temperatures at 6am.  Worse, you’re going to miss a lot of important events you’re going to wish you hadn’t. I’ve a six-year-old daughter, I’ve been able to go to only one birthday party. The Army’s had me all the others. I was in Afghanistan for most of the first year of her life.

If you’ve decided that this is something you –really- want to do, however, (or if you’re in a country which doesn’t give you a choice in the matter), then read on.

The most important thing to remember is that no matter how unpleasant, how inconsiderate, how god-awful the Basic Training experience is, it is designed to graduate people. They actually want you to pass, and to join the force. And do to so in an intact, fit, healthy, sane manner. There is a method to the madness.

I recall on one bus trip to the range, it turned out that the bus driver was married to one of our drill sergeants. “Hey, I’ll let you guys know, he puts on his Scooby-Doo underpants on one leg at a time just like you would.” They’re human beings too, with a sense of humour and perspective. Although they may give the impression that nothing you do can possibly be good enough, they will recognize if you’re putting in the effort.

 

The four human beings who made my first stay in Fort Knox so.... interesting.

Anyway, when we were at the Reception company, all with newly shaved heads and ready to go, the Reception company’s First Sergeant gave us some words of wisdom.

First: The fastest way out of Basic is to graduate. If you think you can get yourself thrown out, you may end up doing so only after a bit of time in the stockade. Even if you manage to miss that, there’s a perfectly good chance that you’ll be put into a holding unit, cutting grass or painting rocks, for months while the Army’s paperwork process is conducted. Remember, the system is based on the fact that they want you to graduate. And, in a volunteer military, that you actually want to be there in the first place. Further, nobody is ever well motivated to do the paperwork for such things, so it’s definitely going to take a while.

He gave us three rules to live by in order to graduate. “Follow those three simple rules, and you will be successful. Rule 1: Do what you’re told. Rule 2: Do what you’re told. Rule 3: Damnit, do what you’re told.”

He was not wrong. You can practically turn off your brain and graduate Basic. Instruction is given to a level of “spoonfeedingness” that sometimes I genuinely wonder about the state of the US population as a whole.  All you have to do is listen to what you’re being told, and do it. Nothing more, nothing less. The other thing that makes me wonder about the State of the US population as a whole, however, has been my observation as to just how many people are unable to follow these three simple rules. It’s enough to make you rip your hair out. In the immortal words of every Command Sergeant Major throughout the US Army’s history… “Please don’t be that guy.” Those of you who are older than most will have a different experience. I went through Fort Knox at age 25. Almost 50% older than the average recruit.  The theatrics and ‘games’ that the Drills play don’t work the same way on us older lads, but the behavior of “that guy” is going to drive you absolutely spare. Nothing for it but to accept that maturity comes with perspective changes, and some younger folk just don’t ‘get it’ yet.

They didn't let me have my Chieftain's Hat yet

One of the unwritten rules in the Army is “Never volunteer for anything.” There is much truth to this statement. However, I have also noticed that if there are ever any ‘good’ details, they also tend to be given to people who stick their necks out and volunteer. This becomes a bit of a judgement call for you. My life in Basic turned out to be missing a few unpleasant activities because I had volunteered to do something, and that kept me busy during the mud baths and sense of urgency drills. There is nothing wrong with being “The Unseen Private Jones in the Third Rank,” you’ll just end up with a middling experience.

The gas chamber sucks. Just accept that now. If you have a choice, try to get in on the first run, before the gas builds up in concentration. It won’t kill you, neither will most anything else. I recall one morning, doing laps about two weeks in, it’s before 6am, pouring rain, and I’m overtaking one chap. As I pass by, he pants in between gasps, “I…. have made…. a mistake…” I could relate entirely. He graduated, like most of us.

Again, nothing is designed to kill you. It’ll feel like it, but it’s not. I don’t know of anyone who has looked back on their time in Basic and said, even in retrospect, “You know, I actually enjoyed that.” But there are a lot of people who will look back and say “I’m glad I did it, and that I made it through.” It’s a gut check. For a lot of folks, it is the first time away from the security of home and friends for anything longer than a few days. It certainly makes you re-evaluate your priorities in life. And appreciate a good pizza or steak. I don’t know why, conversation often revolved around food. But I digress.

When you are having those days of incredible misery, realizing to yourself “You know, I don’t need to be here”, and you want to quit, tell yourself “I’ll quit in the morning.” Next morning, you’ll realise it’s not that bad, and that you are one wake-up closer to graduation.

Then you get a final feeling of satisfaction and pride once you’ve come out. It’s worth it.

Oh. And don’t leave your locker unlocked. Ever. Trust me.



Lockhart77 #2 Posted 01 July 2015 - 03:46 AM

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I had couple of occasions to taste basic training. 

Never again. You'll come out tougher, but at some occasion felt dead inside, but I guess each to their own. 

 

I still find it ironic for the purpose of keeping peace or safety, we train youngsters to become a tool or means of inflicting harm. 

 

Oh and I can totally relate to the food thing or priorities, being able to sleep at peace without the sound of boots or the chance of a sudden inspection or drill is a bliss. 


Edited by Lockhart77, 01 July 2015 - 03:48 AM.

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neokai #3 Posted 01 July 2015 - 11:11 AM

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To quote that old Latin saying: si vis pacem, para bellum - if you want peace, prepare for war.

 

It's 1 of those foundations that underpins all peacetime armies. And I remember binging on food (ate 3 persons' servings) first time I stepped out of camp during Basic.


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TE_Skell_ #4 Posted 01 July 2015 - 11:40 AM

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As always, a good read.

Lockhart77 #5 Posted 01 July 2015 - 01:06 PM

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View Postneokai, on 01 July 2015 - 10:11 AM, said:

To quote that old Latin saying: si vis pacem, para bellum - if you want peace, prepare for war.

 

It's 1 of those foundations that underpins all peacetime armies. And I remember binging on food (ate 3 persons' servings) first time I stepped out of camp during Basic.

 

Yeah nah, sstill think that we can do without 

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andrew1996 #6 Posted 09 July 2015 - 09:14 AM

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wow nice man

         

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_HesH_ #7 Posted 10 July 2015 - 10:16 PM

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nice thank you

ThomChen114 #8 Posted 13 July 2015 - 10:48 PM

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informative and amusing read

I'll have to keep this in mind when i'm due to do military service soon


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AN_AUSSIE_WARPIG #9 Posted 15 August 2015 - 12:13 PM

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I finished basic training last year for the Australian army and its pretty much true you just switch of and become a drone and the areas you need to put in and shine at PT weapons drills/handling room inspections all that good stuff yeah it sucks but when you finnaly march out there is no better feeling then standing in front of your family on a parade ground with your ceremonial kit on and a rifle in your hands and looking at them thinking in your head I have done and finished something most other ppl either couldn't or wouldn't do there is no other job like this and I am proud to be called a digger

homingk #10 Posted 16 August 2015 - 05:13 PM

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Singapore BMT army basic training is not too bad in late 2002 but I was single out by sadistic sergeant Ong for no good reaason who made my 2.5 months terrible.  He was the reason i was to suffer through 1st day out field training with high fever of 39.1°C till late at night.  Silly me for bring my assigned AR-15 to medical center which was handed over to my PC before entering. I was put on drip and medication for a night in sickbay for the night. In the morning I made the bad choice to go back for the out field camp despite not at 100% only to be getting more hazing by the usual suspect. I remember it was day 4 or 5 I had to be kicked in the head in push up position with helmet on by Sgt Ong, that is when i snap and went for my smoking PS to ask him to take action or i will fight with Sgt Ong. Sgt Ong know then and there not to single me out ever for what he did over the top. Anyway he got what he deserved when he tried to be clever despite warnings by other not to go for our passing out parade for being sick. He lost 3-4 tooth after fainting and smashing his mouth against his M-16S1.  He never turn up for the chalet cum BBQ celebrations as he knows how much hate the platoon have on him and not man enough to apologies or stick to his gun to say that his training is for our good.  Always remember kama bites back in ways you never know and when.  I got better trainers despite the harder combat engineering training after posting and way happier with my army later as a whole. 

Edited by homingk, 17 August 2015 - 12:42 AM.


indianvideogamer #11 Posted 25 November 2015 - 08:26 PM

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Lol, nice article. I guess training for the services is the same, no matter where you are!




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