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Surviving Basic Training


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The_Chieftain #1 Posted Jun 26 2015 - 21:45

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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.



SidZiff #2 Posted Jun 27 2015 - 17:33

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Lot's of memories from Ft Knox, both good and not so much. I was there for Basic and AIT in 1977, M60A3 Master Gunner Course in '83, ANCOC in '85 or '86 and back twice more for Master Gunner transition courses for the M1 and M1A1.

Kyogre #3 Posted Jun 27 2015 - 23:22

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What about AROTC?

Steri_Opticon #4 Posted Jun 27 2015 - 23:27

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Please believe the main post. Every main point in it was true in 1972 when I arrived at Ft. Knox, too. I went through Basic at the ripe old age of 21, and even then it made me an 'old man'.


Edited by Steri_Opticon, Jun 27 2015 - 23:28.


stalkervision #5 Posted Jun 27 2015 - 23:29

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Chieftain pray tell,  what nickname did the give you in basic training?

 

 I bet you left your locker unlocked !


 

 enjoy.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NP8y63Ms4o



Shogun_master #6 Posted Jun 28 2015 - 00:11

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Hey, Chieftain. What was the most unbearable part of basic? Also, what was it like after graduating? 

I am 17yrs. old, and I'm considering joining the ARMY as an M1 Abrams, tank crew member. Do you have any advice or thoughts about it? How hard was it? What was the best part about being a tank crew member?

Ever since I started playing WoT, I have always had an interest in tanks. It's been my dream to operate M1 Abrams for as long as I could remember. 

Feedback would be appreciated. Thanks

-Shogun

 



BaronCawdor #7 Posted Jun 28 2015 - 00:32

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I Went through Basic at Ft Sill Ok in 83, then to Knox for AIT at the ripe old age of 23. the kids drove me nuts, dealing with them was worse than the drill instructors.....lol. M1 Turret Mech. Early in the M1 era. Was there for allot of changes, 1/8 CAV 1ST CAV DIV. All said and done, wouldn't change a thing 

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NotchbackFiero #8 Posted Jun 28 2015 - 01:08

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Chieftan,

 

Good old Fort Knox! I graduated there a mere 5 years after, from Foxtrot Co 2/46. I was just a 94R filling a slot so I could join ROTC, but I wanted the BCT experience. And boy did I get it. I'll never forget Misery, Agony and Heartbreak.

 

And what's this crap about taking the bus to the range? We always marched. I thought Cav was hardcore? ;) 

 

I still am immensely happy I took that leap and had that experience. I'm now an AH-64 driver, and made O3 last year. 

 

Fort Knox, the one you want!

 

Posted Image

 

Posted Image

 

 


Edited by NotchbackFiero, Jun 28 2015 - 01:11.


QWERTYEel89 #9 Posted Jun 28 2015 - 01:09

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View PostThe_Chieftain, on Jun 26 2015 - 15:45, said:

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.

Nice article, I've say here rolling my head around joining the service for years now. Still wondering if I should.



Gnarly #10 Posted Jun 28 2015 - 01:31

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The Chieftain is right about "perspective making all the difference".  At 24, with 2 kids & a wife, I was fed up with working in the auto/steel/foundry industries and risking my life every day for a paycheck.  The G.I. Bill looked to be my only ticket out.  I know this is going to sound crazy, but after worrying about filling those mouths, paying bills and dodging hot splashy metal day after day, basic training was almost a vacation.  A little physical fitness, some rules about hanging & folding my clothes and learning some military history & protocols really wasn't that tough.  Truth be told, I actually enjoyed it.

 

BTW, the G.I. Bill worked like gangbusters, covered my computer science studies and opened up plenty of doors for me.  Those few tough weeks are so far behind me now that I barely remember them.

But that's the way life is, in the rear view mirror it all goes by so fast. 

 



The_Chieftain #11 Posted Jun 28 2015 - 01:37

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View Poststalkervision, on Jun 27 2015 - 22:29, said:

Chieftain pray tell,  what nickname did the give you in basic training?

 

 I bet you left your locker unlocked !


 

 enjoy.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NP8y63Ms4o

 

"Housemouse"

 

No, I never did. I saw what happened to others who did, mind.



NotchbackFiero #12 Posted Jun 28 2015 - 01:58

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View Poststalkervision, on Jun 27 2015 - 16:29, said:

Chieftain pray tell,  what nickname did the give you in basic training?

 

 

 

I never did get one of those. Week 5, as we're getting on a bus, DS South said to me: "You! Are you in my platoon?" ..... I considered that a success, lol. 



Znath #13 Posted Jun 28 2015 - 02:20

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Determination is what it really takes to get through it.  I graduated basic training with full-on bronchitis from the black mold in our horrible disgusting building which thankfully is destroyed now... I wish I was there to swing the first hammer....  The steroids they gave me to cough up the crap in my lungs caused me to break a rib and my shoulder was torn through the whole thing.  

But I still passed.

 

You do not

want to be a hold over.... pass at all cost.

There were hold overs stuck in 'basic training limbo' for nearly a year.  You get paid, but you don't want that life.

Quitting takes longer than passing too, so don't think there's a quick way out of it either.  The thing I was told by people who had been through it is basically this:

It sucks but you get through it.



The_Chieftain #14 Posted Jun 28 2015 - 02:25

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View PostNotchbackFiero, on Jun 28 2015 - 00:58, said:

 

 

I never did get one of those. Week 5, as we're getting on a bus, DS South said to me: "You! Are you in my platoon?" ..... I considered that a success, lol. 

 

I was 6'5", irish accent, E4, older than most, prior military experience...I was doomed from the start. I ran with it, was the only recruit to wear rank and unit patch in my company. In for a penny...

Phredde #15 Posted Jun 28 2015 - 02:34

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As the prototypical pvt Jones in the third rank, my rule was volunteer freely.  I liked the change in routine and I actually had fun from time to time.  Although I did learn that any call for volunteers with a drivers license usually led to said volunteer driving a broom, rake, or shovel.

Gramps_77 #16 Posted Jun 28 2015 - 02:50

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View PostNotchbackFiero, on Jun 27 2015 - 19:08, said:

Chieftan,

 

Good old Fort Knox! I graduated there a mere 5 years after, from Foxtrot Co 2/46. I was just a 94R filling a slot so I could join ROTC, but I wanted the BCT experience. And boy did I get it. I'll never forget Misery, Agony and Heartbreak.

Ah yes "The Three Sisters" the first thought that came to my mind when I read "Ft Knox". 

And what's this crap about taking the bus to the range? We always marched. I thought Cav was hardcore? ;) 

Ditto, I dont remember any bus??

I still am immensely happy I took that leap and had that experience. I'm now an AH-64 driver, and made O3 last year. 

 

Fort Knox, the one you want!

 

"snip"

Nice thread.Thanks for the trip down memory lane Chieftain.  Basic training was August of 1980 for me, AIT in Ft Benjamin Harrison.


Edited by Gramps_77, Jun 28 2015 - 02:52.


H_Skillet #17 Posted Jun 28 2015 - 02:51

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Great article.  As a civvie who's always been interested in military history, played wargames, and generally been a voyeur, I'd like to take a moment to say, thank you, to those of you who've served your countries.  It seems as if there's a large gulf between service people, and the populace, like two different worlds, and I suppose that's just the way that is is, unlike in previous times. 

 

Many of us on the outside are appreciative and perhaps, a little bit in awe of the sacrifices you make.

 

 I've had the pleasure of working with some of the aviators at Barksdale AFB.  Damn good men flying those B-52s. 

 

Thanks for your service, and keep up the good work.



stalkervision #18 Posted Jun 28 2015 - 03:39

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View PostThe_Chieftain, on Jun 27 2015 - 19:37, said:

 

"Housemouse"

 

No, I never did. I saw what happened to others who did, mind.

 

 

 "H-M"  Hmm... Now that's a interesting nick name.   I'll leave it at that after all > "curiosity and cats "



NutrientibusMeaGallus #19 Posted Jun 28 2015 - 03:55

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 There's nothing like the peaceful tranquility and time for introspection of being ever so gently woken up by an aluminum trash can plowing it's way across the barracks at mach 12...... Even the guys on the top of the triple tier bunks were standing on that yellow line perfectly at attention within 3 seconds.... and you wake up at 10 seconds...... The one dude who slept through it the first time.... Never let there be a second time after the push ups and getting dogged all day (was kind of entertaining to watch though)..

  The push ups for taking more than you can eat and drink.... The push ups for taking too long to eat..... Only being allowed to eat AFTER the hour or so of jogging and/or sprints at 5 am.... That feeling that the drill instructors are plotting something the first time they wake you up an hour late.... Like you're being set up..... 



Nihtwaco #20 Posted Jun 28 2015 - 03:58

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D-2-1 3rd Plt 3rd Squad April through June 1971 Ft. Lewis Washington. 2 Active as Draftee 27 Years 7 months 14 days total Federal service. Training in EOD, Generators taught Generator Mechanics on Active then Reserve 85th and 84th Divisions as Instructor for Wheel Vehicle Mechanics, Armored Cav 19D recruits then ended as infantry Drill Sgt. Helping run Common  Basic for Medics, Truck drivers, mechanics and such at Ft. Knox every summer.

 

It was a lot different than the Volunteer Army a far more lethal environment with casualties and fatalities from Disease, Drug dealers, radicals and folks not reading the suspended items list before using High Explosive Ordinance. Then throw in the Platoon member who went nuts on the assault course and try to kill our Drill Sergeants. and the West pointer in the Range Tower. I was 75 meters down hill from the fool hugging the deck as the Lt opened up with an M60 to keep the Kid pinned down for the Drills to flank him. He left in the straight Jacket.
 

It is a different world than Civie street. Suck it up and Drive on.


Edited by Nihtwaco, Jun 28 2015 - 04:10.





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