Michael Z. Williamson
  • Journal of a 35 year old Army recruit

    17 Jan 2004

    It started with an odd twist of conversation.

    "What would I get for pay and benefits in the Guard?"

    It's a normal enough question, but this came from my almost 35 year old wife, who's first comment on the Guard was three days after our wedding when I got mobilized for the Mississippi Flood of 1993. "How much longer do you have?"

    She was serious. Suddenly decided and serious.

    I supported her of course.

    The big problem is weight. She's 40 lbs over the max allowable, 25-30 over what would let her pass the body fat standard based on build.

    Second problem is that there's only two months until her 35th birthday, which is the cutoff.

    Third problem is I can't get our recruiter to take her seriously. He didn't call for days, then called me at drill and asked me for details I don't have handy. She's the recruit, he needs to talk to her. I feel like a guy with a fish on a line, begging for someone with a net.

    25 Feb

    There's no way she can make body fat by 23 March. I made a phone call for backup. I've a friend who's a major of Field Artillery. According to him, Army Guard cutoff is 36th birthday. While we were having this conversation, the Army Guard recruiter called on the other line. That's service!

    15 Mar

    Sigh...this is going to take a lot of work. I gave her an assessment test on pushups, sit ups and running. Short answer: she's never done any sit ups or pushups, and doesn't know how. It's hard to explain things that I've done for just about forever.

    I started her doing leg lifts to get her abs ready for sit ups, and bench press as prep for pushups. 35 lbs on the bench right now. She's discouraged, but that's not an unexpected starting point.

    12 April

    Leg lifts led to partial crunches. She can't quite manage a pushup yet, but she can raise herself. It's visible progress, but she's an all or nothing woman and is still discouraged. With arms behind head, there's too much mass to moment arm for her to lift. She can manage with arms across her middle. But it's an infinite improvement over not being able to.

    She can do pushups on her knees, sort of. It's also progress. I suspect those will be the hardest thing for her. They frequently are for females, and she's not young. All she can do is keep at it.

    Her run is up to a half mile, then she walks the remainder. She's also walking an additional mile some days.

    Her diet is working--she's lost about 5 lbs and is keeping it off. That's another issue. A low cal diet with a muscle building regimen at a relatively advanced age is tough.

    The hardest thing may be motivation. I see change, but she's never done anything like this and is having trouble with patience. She'll have to hurry up and learn some. ;-)

    19 May

    So, Gail's gone from leg lifts, to crunches with arms across abdomen, crunches with arms across shoulders, to situps with arms behind head. Good news there. She can run/walk a mile in about 17 minutes, and sometimes run the whole mile. But she's very inconsistent. That's going to take more practice.

    Pushups are almost nowhere. She can do them on her knees, and inclined on the wall, but not on the ground. I'm asking some experts because I don't know where to go from here.

    10 June

    Gail can run a mile now. Her time varies wildly from 11 to 17 minutes. This is an attitude and attention issue.

    I went running with her to pace her, and voila! 9:56. Fast enough to qualify. She was heaving hard, but she proved to herself she can do it. We'll work on it from here.

    Her situps are real situps now, and verging on fast enough to pass APFT, not just qualify. Her pushups are just not good enough. We've got up to 6 months still, but sooner is better.

    26 August

    She was at the hotel again last night, for an early weigh in at MEPS. I told her to call either way. 0700 the phone rang, and I dashed through to my office. "I made it," she said casually, either very collected or very tired.

    I don't expect most civilians to grasp it, but I grabbed a uniform quick and called our Arty Major friend, who was serving in Division G3 shop. He'd agreed to swear her in, but hadn't realized it was to happen right then. So he asked over his shoulder, "Sir, is there anyway you can let me out of this morning's meeting for a couple of hours to swear in a recruit?"

    The Colonel's reply: "It would be an honor. Go."

    Morrigan was in school, I took Eric up in the car, signed in through godawful tight security (the same building has another federal activity that's somewhat sensitive) and has to wait, of course. But we finally had a private swearing with just her, the Major, myself and the formal witness, a Navy CPO.

    Damn, I'm proud of her. She's busted ass for eight months straight to get here.

    24 Sept

    So, early Saturday, Gail reports for her first National Guard Drill.

    Uniform looks good, she knows some basics of drill, ceremonies, rank, rifle, assorted acronyms, etc. She can pass the minimal PT test to qualify for Basic. She's got a notebook, pen, Soldier's Manual of Common Tasks and clothes to sleep in there at the Armory. They'll feed her lunch, dinner, breakfast and lunch. Classes, training and prep. I found out their course, and it's good practice all around. I filled her in on most of the details.

    Should I have mentioned the Sunday 0430 reveille with a former Drill Sergeant?

    26 Sept

    Well, Gail's first drill seemed to go well.

    Keep in mind, this is a training program for people who haven't been to Basic, not what those of us trained in a task do.

    Sign in, personal vehicles put off limits. Class in sexual harassment (of course), formation, basics of facing movements. Critique for loose threads on the uniform (None for Gail), boots, etc. Class in UCMJ including the infamous "Unnatural carnal copulation" article--technically, anything other than missionary position is verboten. (Yeah, right.) ("Want to go back to my room and violate the UCMJ? ;-))

    Then some @#^$# got busted for smoking a THIRD TIME during class breaks, after specifically being told not to bring tobacco. So Gail and 150 other recruits got a group ass chewing, then 45 minutes of pushups and leg lifts as punishment drill. Same #@$%#$% passed out in formation. I don't think his career is going anywhere.

    MREs for lunch.

    Everything was carried out at a trot, to get them ready for the pace. It's already rubbed off on Gail a little. I'm glad to see that. I've never SEEN a more laid-back, California surfer-chick two-hours-to-do-breakfast attitude in my life.

    Some other screw up by someone (marching with his hands in his pockets), another 45 minutes of leg lifts, jumping jacks and arm extensions. The poor schmuck who screwed up was required to give the orders. Apparently, a few glares convinced him not to do so again.

    Box lunch for dinner.

    More practice in drill, Gail got to demonstrate "fall out" and did well. No, it's not hard, but 150 people there and most had no idea.

    Fall out fast, set up cot, sleeping bag, personal area. Free time. Lights out. No one actually SAID what was going to happen in the morning, it being a collective joke on the new recruits, but Gail mostly figured it out.

    0430, firecrackers in the trash can, lots of shouting, 3 minutes to fall out for PT. Went beyond the requirement on sit ups despite all the extra workout the day before, failed pushups but failed well, pumping out somewhere around 25 that didn't count but not quitting even when she had tears streaming. Too slow on the run. Three more drills to do it.

    Weighing and taping, down 2 more pounds.


    More drill, classes in haircuts, uniforms, etc.

    After action review.


    No one personally in her face all weekend. That's a win. A BIG one. She identified two people she knows can't hack it, and found out she wasn't in the worst shape even being the oldest. She's convinced she can do it.


    5 Oct

    PT proceeds apace. Her run this evening, 2 miles, was 22:46, which is enough to get out of Basic. Ironically, her ONE MILE time is at 11:15, too slow for the 10:30 entrance requirement. But in 97 days, she can improve, with two runs a day.

    Situps--17 in a minute gets her in, 34 in two gets her out, she's managing around 42, which passes the APFT. Looking good, but to fight complacency I'm hitting her with a second set.And push ups...

    Well, her form looks good. Arm strength needs work. More back bends to help distribute the load. As long as she can demonstrate 3 by her December drill, she's in. 9 to grad, 15 for APFT. (Bear in mind, if these amounts don't seem strenuous, she's 35, not 18, and the test is graduated for age.)

    She can strip an M16 in 57 seconds, and has large chunks of her chain of command, general orders, Soldier's Code, ranks, close order drill. As she's going to be at least a squad leader in Basic, if not Platoon Guide, she needs all the prep she can get.

    10 Oct

    Would you believe we have to teach her how to run, too?

    She's never really run, and what she's been doing for 2 mile stretches is sort of a cross between a power walk, an Airborne Shuffle and a jog. It's probably very efficient, and is low stress, but it keeps her feet low enough to trip and isn't fast enough for more than a marginal time.

    The good news is shooting: 100 m range with half size silhouettes, 60/60 on target, the last twenty of them as 5 second acquisitions at three different targets. She has no problems with rifle whatsoever, nor with technical matters, nor with quitting. She's totally unable to quit no matter how tough things get. Once her endurance and strength are up to spec, she will be a first class soldier anyone should be proud to serve with.

    11 Oct

    We went to the Camp Atterbury Range, which I have free access to.

    Using a stock AR15 with the crappiest Russian steel cased ammo available, wearing helmet, web gear and boots, Gail shot 60/60 at 100m.

    That's with a half size silhouette.

    Last 20 were speed drills with three targets. I call target, five seconds, and she has to hit it. That's as close as we can come to popup targets.

    She misunderstood. First call she put three rounds in in four seconds, before I stopped her.

    She'll do fine. That should get her an Expert dangly for rifle.

    I had to teach her how to run. She has a shuffle/jog/power walk gait that gets her to the "barely passable" stage. I didn't realize that's the only pace she had. She can run now. Two mile time should come up above 22 minutes quickly.

    Back bends and pushup drills and leg lifts in boots are working. She managed two pushups anyone would count as valid, and two almosts.

    She has half her chain of command for BCT memorized, and won't know the rest until she arrives.

    153 lbs, 10 pounds over max, but 7 lbs under what she can get away with for body fat index.

    93 days to go until Basic.

    Barring any major attitude problems or injuries, I'm calling this one a soldier. After 19 years, my judgment's pretty good.

    All else aside, it's the attitude that does it, and she's stuck to this since Jan 17. She may not like the phrase they have her shouting at drill, but she's doing a damned good job of being the poster girl for it.


    20 Oct

    Currently she's doing 46 sit ups in two minutes, pushups, a 2 mile run, leg lifts in boots 3 sets of 6", 12" and 45 degrees at 30 seconds each, a five mile walk with 25 lb ruck and back bends.

    Development work is every other day. Training exercises daily. But even that fairly light regime is beating her to hell. She's simultaneously trying to lose weight, develop muscle she never had, build that muscle to a useful level and train it for various exercises--at age 35.

    She's fine on sit ups and then some. She's barely marginal on run. Inadequate on pushups even after 6 months and still working up a good road march.

    21 Oct

    (In response to a question about body shape and weight in Baen's Bar)

    Well, that's where all her trouble is. She has the same inseam I do, but is 8" shorter. All torso, or lack thereof.

    Any attempt to measure her waist by standard is doomed to fail. Her navel is on the pelvic line. Her natural waist is two inches higher, just under her ribs. So there's NO WAY she can pass the AF's requirements.

    Because of her hip geometry, she wears medium long BDUs, which are a fine fit on the hips and hang to her mid-feet and need a LOT of blousing. She may have to have uniforms custom tailored. Medium regulars are too tight--not enough hip length in them.

    She's finally developed lats, delts, biceps and triceps, but they're still only rudimentary if I'm being honest. Getting enough protein in for muscle development while still losing weight is problematic.

    She's down from 187 to 156, which meets BMI standards that cut her off at 160 with her measurements, and is aiming for the 143 standard max weight for her height. Weight loss and muscle dev has GAINED her a half inch in height, which helps.

    Physically, she's in the best shape she's ever been in. She still has some belly to lose that's been there for 10 years at this point, and that will probably put her under the weight allowance.

    Main concern, as she meets BMI, is to get her strong enough that PT and road marches aren't a problem--you take a 19 year old and run his or her ass off for 9 weeks and he/she WILL develop more muscle and strength. Not so true at age 35. You have to be fit to start at that age.

    But when it comes to marching in boots and ruck, she should walk those kids into the GROUND.

    I've served on an Honor Guard and a Color Guard and her formation drill looks goooooood. I better not hear DICK from a Drill about her form or he and I will be having words. ;-)

    If we can get her back straight, she should be adequate on pushups. She actually runs rather than shuffles now, and speed is coming up quickly. I've got her on a Winston Churchill workout.

    25 Oct

    This weekend we both had drill. I had a deployment exercise in the rain and a ton of administrative stuff to do--one troop in processing, one out processing, uniform and award issues, promotion recommendations. The usual.

    Gail had more prep for Basic. Classes and "motivational" PT during the day Saturday (someone called a sergeant "Sir."), which she handled well. The leg lifts are helping. Some marching drill, which went so-so. Most of this is being taught by troops awaiting a unit or transfer. Some are very good. Some aren't quite up on things themselves. Which, actually, is realistic. She got more advice on pushups that may help.

    The high point was pugil stick drill, which is done to simulate bayonet fighting. Gail took her padded stick, stepped up against a six foot,18 year old woman and knocked her into the floor. The two biggest mistakes people make are A: aiming only for the head--a hard and not very effective target, and B: not being aggressive enough. Most people in a fight take three swings and then step back to assess the situation and regroup.

    Did I mention that Gail has taken Kung Fu?

    She didn't back off and she went for the body. Thrust, smash, slash, check, thrust. Opponent down.

    The box dinner was Italian, and Gail got food poisoning. Lights out was at 10, she had midnight Fire Watch, went back to bed at 1. Reveille was at 0430, and her suggestion was to wake up at 0400 to avoid the rush. For some reason, not a single 19 year old had thought of this. Of course, once she suggested it, they decided, in a more-is-better mood, that 0300 was a good time.

    So the women got far too little sleep (Gail about an hour, still being sick), and the men got woken up with cold water in the face from a pitcher.

    Outside for PT, and Gail couldn't, still being nauseous. After an MRE breakfast, it was time for "Charge up San Juan Hill." It's smaller than the real San Juan, and there's no Spanish Army with Maxim Guns. Still, three races up and down a hill and back to formation in boots is a brisk workout. Then it was "Simon Says" for formation drill practice, and "person to hold leg lifts the longest gets 50 pushups from the instructor."

    A more advanced class was doing pugil drill, and the champ was taking all comers. The instructors asked who wanted some, and a burly ball player stepped up. The "Champ" was about 6'7".

    It didn't last long.

    So, while the Champ recovered his breath, they asked for any others.

    Gail stepped up.

    Obviously, for a short female (5'5") to challenge a LARGE male makes people go, Er...okay...she can't win...only...she thinks she can...why?"

    The man claimed fatigue, which was probably partly true, having had a dozen bouts, and partly chivalry.

    "Why?" she asked. "Are you afraid of a little female old enough to be your mama?"

    He repeated that he was tired, and she said, "Yes, that's why I stepped up."

    The Army rule against females and males fighting such bouts was invoked (Something about a fear of sexual harassment suits or some other garbage in our modern world).

    "But why? An Iraqi rebel won't care that I'm female. Bring it on."

    No dice. And this LARGE man did admit he didn't want the loss of face if he should lose.

    Then she pointed out to the gentleman that he went for the head with lots of overhand blows and left his middle exposed. This gave him the opportunity for a thoughtful look.

    So, no bout, but many raised eyebrows at her motivation. They hadn't said, "no females" because they hadn't expected one to be s/t/u/p/i/d/ c/r/a/z/y/ minded enough to volunteer.

    Keep in mind she was still sick and fatigued.

    More classes, and home groggy from lack of sleep.

    Final survey, "Did you have a good time?"

    "Yeah, I did."

    OOH#$^%$#&^% RAAAAAAAAH!

    She still isn't sure she can make it. Every vet we know agrees with me that she'll stomp Basic into submission with her determination. She just needs to work up her PT more and manage not to be sarcastic with her Drill. Since that last is impossible, it will largely help the former.

    79 days, two more drills, and she wants LOTS more PT to get ready. She won't grow muscles in 9 weeks the way a recruit does. She'll have to be buff beforehand.

    I will, of course, oblige her.

    26 Oct

    Thanks to Jolie for helping ID one of Gail's problems.

    Gail can bench 90lbs free weight and only 40 on a machine, which is IMPOSSIBLE. You ALWAYS are stronger when the machine does the balancing.

    Unless you're using the wrong muscle group--shoulders, not triceps.

    So we need a gym for Gail. Gyms are expensive.



    77 days/53 to assessment at drill :-\

    We could have been using the gym all along--I can get in. And she could since Aug 25.

    My unit is 90 miles away. I don't think of the gym there as a benefit.

    Luckily, this is a minor adjustment of form. She has the strength, we've just got to shift her technique, as we did with running last week.

    Sigh. I should get a MEDAL for this.

    20 November

    I went in as an observer this drill weekend. I wanted to see this operation for myself. It's quite impressive. I expect most of these Guard recruits will do phenomenally over the Active Duty recruits who have no experience.

    I augmented as a PT monitor on Sunday--they need lots of them to grade all the recruits, and veterans are used to being drafted as help. The females were in a separate block, but I knew Gail would make her situps.

    I watched several young men belt out the required 13 pushups, and counseled a couple on form--too saggy or not rising quite high enough. They can obviously do them, they were just sloppy.

    Gail made her pushups! I wasn't watching at the time, but the sergeant rating her said, "Okay, that's it." She thought she'd messed up, but was checked off as complete. Three pushups, low enough to count and back up. To me, no effort at all. To Gail, 11 months of tears.

    I helped time a few people on the one mile qualification, too. Gail has DONE 1 mile in 10:30, more than once. She lacks consistency in her run, however.

    But she made it. Across the line at 10:30, passed by the scum of her teeth and shouting, "YES!"

    I think she finally feels she can do this. And she'd been sticking with it anyway.

    Still, 6 more weeks to get better. You can't be too fit upon arrival.

    7 Dec

    Gail is within 30 days of shipping.

    She's finally starting to get nervous, which is natural.

    Her pushups are marginal but improving. Her run is acceptable and improving. Her situps are beyond qualifying. She has learned large parts of the IET manual and is now trying to develop at least some of the aggressive attitude needed for this. Eleven months of hard work is starting to pay off, and a bit more weight loss will put her in a good starting position to tackle Basic.

    Now it's all down to mindset. If you won't quit, they won't let you fail. So she just has to have the right mind to love mud and a certain amount of pain.

    Hey, if I've been a professional masochist for 19 years, she can do it, too.

    15 Dec

    Gail will be on Active status as of 4 Jan, shipping 5 Jan for Ft Jackson, commencing Reception 6 Jan, and commencing training sometime between 7-14 Jan.

    She's at 155 lbs, and makes tape for BMI at 160 at her current measurements.

    Her required 10:30 mile or better is at 9:43

    Her required 17 situps in one minute are at 25.

    Her required 3 pushups in one minute are at 3.

    Obviously, we plan to improve this in the few days left. She actually has situps to the point where she can easily go beyond graduation and APFT requirements. Her run is close, very close, for the 2 mile grad requirement, and we're working her on inclined pushups to get her strength up.

    A few more shooting sessions, some drill and another 3 road marches, plus additional review of her training manuals should have her ready for everything except attitudinal training before she ships.

    On the last, I like to paraphrase The Architect from The Matrix Reloaded: "We have been intimidating recruits for a long time, and we have become very, very good at it."

    She's a bit nervous, but that should end when she meets her Drill.

    She'll be too #@$%# SCARED to be nervous.



    8 Jan

    Okay, here's the basics as I have them:

    She's cheerful and doing okay. They weren't allowed phones until just now, and may not again before she starts training on Tuesday.

    They haven't done her PT test yet. They'll do it Monday, after she gets all her shots Sunday including Typhoid and Tetanus that hurt like hell and seize the muscle up.

    Her original contract was as a Private, E1, while she's now a Private First Class, E3. TRADOC (Training and Doctrine Command, the idiots who handle this rigamarole all day every day and still can't get it right and should be given a taste of their own discipline to get their heads out of their nether regions) only has her original form. Doesn't matter that she has both ID card and Leave and Earnings Statement showing her as an E3. Her unit said we wouldn't need that particular form. Her unit hadn't called Reception back on Thurs or Fri. I called her unit on Fri about another matter, and they didn't mention it, which makes me wonder if TRADOC even called the right number in the first place. I'll check Monday 0730.

    She's tired, in part from a 20 minute smoking last night which she deserved. She pulled guard on an empty bay. They cancelled the watch and she went back to sleep. Someone practiced cartwheels in the bay and scuffed the floor with hand and footprints. (Don't ask me, I'm just reporting the news.) She'd signed for it. She hadn't insisted on signing it over to someone else. Last person signed for it takes the heat. A good lesson, early on. She stepped up and took it, which is a good attitude, and a few extra pushups two days before a test will probably help her muscle development.

    As soon as I find out her training company, I'll have her mailing address. I can work it out from this end.

    But the more I find out about TRADOC, the more I think someone needs some face to face with their own Drill Sergeants.

    13 Jan

    Gail is right here in training, for those interested. Besides the academic schedule, every waking minute is driven at a breakneck pace.

    1: they want to see if you're smart enough to do exactly as you're told and not try to be too individual--it screws up the team effort.

    2: they want you to get used to stress--if you can't handle it here, you can't handle it under fire

    3: They demand twice as much as is possible, so you'll learn to do more than you thought you could.

    Tasks this week: memorize chain of command, general orders, army values and history, ranks, organization of the Army units and structure. Gail did all this before she left.

    First aid: Gail has already done this.

    Drill and ceremonies: between her drills and here at home, she knows how to march and maintain formation.

    Neatness and speed: this is where they'll bust her chops. Hard. The "working" inspection usually means if you have more than one demerit they simply dump the locker on the ground and tell you to start over. Actually, starting detailed tasks over is the BEST way to get them done and I warned her of that--if the bunk isn't perfect, strip it and start over, don't try to tweak it because it won't work. Boots must be aligned, the bay and latrine must be spotless at all times, gear must be stowed--if you can't keep your personal gear perfect, why should they trust you with a helicopter turbine or behind your buddy with a loaded weapon?

    First attempt to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test: mostly an assessment. She's not too far from it except possibly on pushups. Her age-based requirement: 2 miles, 21:42, 42 situps in 2 minutes, 15 pushups in 2 minutes.

    If you do EXACTLY what you're told and do it with even half competence, you are largely left alone. She shouldn't draw any flak other than for details and neatness.

    Sunday includes a Road March. I believe they start around 2 miles with just canteens and will increase and add each week. Gail can do 5 with gear, boots and a 7lb bar to simulate a rifle. There is undoubtedly a high school runner who can sprint past her on the track, but I'm betting on Gail to stride her into the ground on the march.

    Classes in values and discipline. She understands this and did well getting herself ready.

    Firewatch: she is probably on guard duty every couple of days for two hours. The Drills and other cadre will try very hard to catch her out on her general orders and to bull their way into the barracks or past the company check point. She has memorized the following:

    "Sir/Sergeant: My First General Order is to guard everything within the limits of my post and quit my post only when properly relieved.

    My Second General Order is to obey my special orders and perform all my duties in a military manner.

    My Third General Order is to report violations of my special orders, emergencies and anything not covered in my instructions to the commander of the relief.

    My Special Orders involve (this station/timeframe/expect a fire drill/allow VIPs through, etc) and I can answer specific questions on those orders. I am prepared to give the countersign if you will give the password and sign. The Sergeant of the Guard is...."

    She will spout this quickly, neatly and confidently until told, "That's enough, Private, thank you." The key is confidence and rote--if you obviously know your stuff, they'll hassle someone else.

    Other tricks include beating on the door, shouting and demanding admission when not on the authorized list, or when of the opposite gender after lights out. The response is, "I am sorry, Sir/Sergeant, I cannot let you in a this time/you are not on the authorized entry list. You must report to CQ located at__ where they can help you with an emergency/provide you with the authorization to enter this post. Would you like me to call the Sergeant of the Guard and have an escort provided?"

    But DO NOT open that door. Someone will get roasted on that. If it happens more than once, the entire platoon will get another 30 minutes of pushups, leg lifts, grass drills and loud shouting. They will probably get this at least twice a day for any excuse to encourage them to do better and improve strength, and each troop with or without their buddy will probably get "Smoked" a couple more times. They are only allowed to hit them for 5 pushups at a time individually. This sounds easy until you realize it's done at about 30 second count per pushup in a VERY LOUD voice about how pain enlightens the mind, the body and the spirit, and enlightenment will be forthcoming, down, as needed until you figure out the right way, that's the Army way, up, of doing things, etc.

    They already asked her (in Reception day 2, only as practice) "Who is the Sergeant Major of the Army" and she apparently drew a stunned silence when she said, "Kenneth A. Preston." They really hadn't expected anyone to know.

    (Yes, I over prepared her on every subject I could. I've been doing this for 19 years, I'm a Shop Chief, and the only rule in my playbook is, "My troops win using every means at their disposal, fair or unfair by preference, expending any and all resources we can acquire through any means necessary in order to do so." I drilled her mercilessly the last four months because she'd rather have it from friendly fire then than hostile fire now.)

    Her 2 minute phone call was exactly by the book: "I have two minutes, I'm in training, I won't be able to call again for three weeks, my address is on the way along with a list of things I can't have, tell everyone I love them, goodbye."

    She was frazzled but did exactly as they told her, so she should be doing better than average at least.

    Chapel is usually generic Protestant for most people--it's very non-sectarian and designed to lighten the mood, and for 45 minutes you're not on the spot. Catholic and Jewish services are always available. However, including Gail there are four Wiccans/Druids in her platoon of 67, and Ft Jackson does have chaplain support staff for them though there are currently no Wiccan chaplains in the Army. There should be one later this year. Holy days are on file in the Chaplain's Manual, ritual gear is available and I believe the chapel garden serves as a Grove, so if they wish they can celebrate full moon next week. She said they volunteered and pulled Firewatch last Sunday at Reception while the majority Christians went to chapel. They will probably get a brief stop at the Exchange, but all packages will be inspected and they will only be able to buy necessities at this point--uniform items needing replacement, boot liners, soap, etc.

    We'll see what shows up in tomorrow's mail.

    20 Jan

    Gail is starting Week 2 today, and this will be a challenge for her--she's afraid of heights. As a photographer, she may have to shoot images from a helicopter door or atop a lift truck, so she'll have to get over that, and Victory Tower should accomplish that. Actually, some people would pay money for this.

    Rope bridge and rope slide over a safety net, a cargo net to climb and a 10 foot practice rappel, then a 40 foot rappel first against a wall, then in free space. There are cadre on belay, so if someone panics and tries to pull rather than push the rope (yes, you actually push the rope to brake) they'll stop the descent at once. Gail's seen Indiana's Air Assault regiment doing this down at Camp Atterbury. She was very quiet and thoughtful.

    They don't shout them through the obstacle because they want them confident, not scared, so she'll simply be encouraged, and I have no doubt she'll manage. She's going to be a very different person after this weekend, though.

    The Army teaches a double opposed carabiner wrap with a 5/8" twisted nylon rope with 1.6% elasticity. One "Fast" rappel is enough for them to toss both 'biners as a safety precaution--the aluminum wears fairly quickly. I assume they have a bucketful at the top and will trash them after every few student descents. Typically, a large pair of pliers is used to break off the locking bar and render them useless so they don't get mixed back in. There are obvious liability issues here, and they have an almost 0 injury rate.

    Map and compass is actually THIS week, and she's familiar with an Army (Actually USGS standard) 1:50,000 map and all terrain features (I have a few maps here from my NCO leadership courses). I have a Swiss compass, not the Lensatic, but the principle is the same and she's done advanced mathematics. It should be fun and easy. I BELIEVE this is just a familiarization course and isn't graded. For PLDC I had to find 5 points over a distance of 10 km on the Platte River Valley in NE during record cold with everything white and featureless. Not fun.

    "Teamwork development" is usually something like an obstacle course or other event that requires cooperation and thinking to accomplish. The hazing will be MUCH lower this week, and aimed more at the group except for major screw ups. Still nothing in the mail. She was likely waaaay too busy last weekend to get anything out before Tuesday (after the holiday) so that's not surprising. I do expect her "official" notification of the address I already have to arrive today. I'm fairly confident that Gail is doing well with specific instructions (I watched her depose for a trial once, as a witness. She didn't admit to being ALIVE unless asked directly) and is only worried about having enough time to do everything in. She'll still spend a moderate amount of time on her face/back, muscles tense and regretting some miniscule screwup. They generally alternate between leg lifts and pushups so they can get twice as much pain in without injury. They won't hurt her much with leg lifts, though. She practiced those for extended periods and can hold for about 3 minutes. She'll get good at pushups. Eventually.

    This is still Red Phase, with mail and church being the only things resembling luxuries. Lunch in the field will be MREs, drinks will be water, milk or juice only (juice choice only at breakfast), and the sterilized, warm temp milk for field exercises is NASTY. She's always hated drinking water, and she already had one hydration drill and hated it ("By now you should have finished your first canteen of four for the day. Finish it and hold it upside down over your head to prove it"). She got rather wet. That's allowed--if you REALLY can't drink any more and are willing to wear it, they'll assume you're hydrated enough. Forcing water on people causes hyponatremia and is dangerous.

    She said the chow hall food was rather plain and unexciting. They claim award winning facilities. Probably it's halfway between the two. I was spoiled--all my Active Duty dining halls WERE award winners who'd put most restaurants to shame, and the cooks I had in the field were experts. I DO hope they've done away with the stupid Clinton-era policy of "no seasonings in case someone is allergic." No one with food allergies is allowed to enlist, and I recall once being forced to endure plain chicken with plain white rice and no sauce. Shudder.

    The "unarmed combat" is pretty much just enough to get you in trouble in a bar. Her kung fu training was better, even though it was some years ago. When funds permit, we'll both be getting back into shaolin. However, the activity is a confidence builder for most and teaches them to be willing to close with an enemy, which is generally safer than trying to run away. She said the mouth guard they issued her was too large, and the recommended solution is to clip it down with nail clippers.

    More next week.

    27 Jan - Week 3

    Gail is here as of today.

    This week, the discipline is marginally lighter. They can trust the recruits to know their way around the immediate training area, and what is expected as far as cleaning barracks, etc, so they'll be left alone for several hours a day on their own responsibility. This is the end of "Red Phase" and the beginning of "White Phase," and they're switching from housekeeping and classroom to practical.

    A 5km foot march is a step up from 3, and is working toward 10 and 15 for graduation. Gail can do 10 in gear already. Bayonet training is next (mine didn't go over well) and they'll spend an entire day learning thrust, parry, slash, check, smash and vertical and horizontal buttstrokes. There was a fantastically effective bayonet charge by the Scottish Sutherland Regiment in Iraq in April when pinned down (no casualties taken, over 100 enemy dead and wounded), so it's still important. However, I would not choose either the M16 or the British SA-80 for a bayonet. They're not designed to take impact in that fashion, so it is a last ditch thing. Nor does the US Army teach the "counter" movement.

    Pugil Stick teaches aggression and confidence and lets you practice the techniques. Gail's already done this at drill and in martial arts.

    The Bayonet Assault Course is a run through the woods poking and striking tires. Kinda fun.

    I've done gas chambers a dozen times, and they vary from pointless to useful to flat out sadistic, depending on who's running them. Really, chemical weapons are marginally effective anyway, and disperse quite quickly.

    There is a test over all the course material taught so far, including radio procedures, done sometime in the last few days, which includes memorizing the phonetic alphabet for sounding out on a bad single sideband connection, which isn't needed as much with SINCGARS encrypted radios, but is still necessary at times. (First name John, I spell: Juliet, Oscar, Hotel, November). I won't list the entire alphabet, it's on the site somewhere. Gail knows it very well.

    Initial Basic Rifle Marksmanship covers safety (First and last action, clear the weapon, point the muzzle safely, assume the weapon is loaded) and stripping and maintenance of it. She knows this, too. Blindfolded. In two minutes. I timed her. She also knows range, velocity, load, weights, size and specs and the name of every component, the firing cycle and immediate action for stoppages and jams. So this should be a boring week for her. That means it'll be harder to stay awake.

    No mail recently, but I expect she'll have more time soon. I hope to hear about her personal experiences last week, today or tomorrow.

    It turns out her course of training for photography IS 30 weeks, not 15 as we were told later, so she won't be back until December.

    More when I know.

    3 Feb Gail starts Week 4 today.

    Her comments from Week 3 indicate she's feeling a tad down, which is normal. She's doing far better than she thinks she is, because she's comparing herself to a much higher standard. One of her complaints is not being able to keep up on runs and marches...without realizing the rest of her platoon is 18. "I haven't fallen out yet, but it's tough," she said. If she hasn't fallen out, she's doing quite well, because I guarantee some of the kids have. She mentioned bayonet training and MOPP/gas chamber without comment, but says she'll have to repeat the Bayonet Assault Course because of a twisted ankle. She missed pugil stick but won't have to do it, and missed another course she gave as an acronym I don't recognize (!) but is probably another fun run through the woods.

    Someone in her platoon broke a door, so they have to stand access guard on one and security on the other until it's fixed. Since they've been issued weapons, either the doors have to be locked or someone has to be awake to keep an eye on them. I'm not sure what procedure they're using--we either designated an arms room and a guard with live ammo (recruits don't get live ammo, which makes it somewhat pointless) or we kept the rifles in our cots in the field, so wiseacres like myself couldn't sneak in from the Aggressor Force and disable them while the owner slept.

    She says the Commando Rope Crossing and the rapelling at Victory Tower were the toughest things she ever did in her life (She is beyond acrophobic) but her Drill pushed her through and she screamed the entire way across and down, but made it. She's puzzled that DS Carter is also the one who smokes her mercilessly for mistakes, but I recognize the combination as an instructor who cares about the job and will see they get through one way or another. I'm looking forward to meeting him.

    So, starting this week, Sundays are actually a day "off." After breakfast and chapel (optional), the only tasks are to clean the bays and outside area, study and be mostly left alone. This of course assumes no one does anything demonstrably stupid to mess things up or the Drills will take them all outside for more PT and some very detail oriented cleaning of anything they can find. We're expecting her to call Sunday evening, and it should be at least 5 minutes, possibly 15, without anyone shouting at her.

    Foot March this week is 8km and will be with rifle and gear, but probably no ruck yet. Gail can do that easily. Above that will be new territory.

    Monday was her second attempt at the standard Army Physical Fitness Test she has to pass, provided her ankle had recovered sufficiently. She's worried about the run time as they keep putting her on medical profile, first for a sinus infection, then for her ankle--no PT. Only the last one counts, and she'll be allowed multiple attempts to pass. That's in another 3 weeks, I believe. Based on her run times here, I think she'll be fine--they're pacing this for 18 year olds, and she's allowed more time because of her age. Situps are no problem for her (anymore) and she's getting a LOT of practice at pushups. It sounds as if the Drills are using strictly pushups, not leg lifts or anything else for discipline. As women average much weaker in the upper body, this is a good way to make sure they get extra development.

    Later in the week will be a 10km foot march, and the rest of the week will be spent on rifle fundamentals. She's good at slow and supported fire, and once she learned not to hurry and snap the trigger on timed fire, she came up to a better score. As long as she remembers to squeeze, not snap, she should score sharpshooter or expert. I don't see any problem with her qualifying at the very least, and that's not this week.

    They will shoot groups to learn precision--tight, reliable groups, then accuracy--putting those groups center mass of the target, and will practice both dry fire and live fire. Her biggest problem at the range here was the helmet getting in the way and the weight of my rifle, which is similar to issue but has an extra kilogram of barrel mass out front (it's a target match barrel). The helmet just takes more getting used to, and the lighter rifle will help.

    They will shoot a practice course on the popup range they'll use to qualify. Targets are at 50, 75, 100, 150, 200, 250 and 300 meters, and there are 12 single popups, then 4 doubled pairs. Time is 4 seconds close and single, up to 12 seconds far and double, which is plenty of time for someone used to the rifle.

    I assume any time waiting for the range will be time spent doing close order drill, and there should be some kind of open ranks inspection shortly, where the company commander will inspect their rifles and gear.

    More next week.

    Feb 17 Week 5

    This week should actually be quite a bit of fun. Lots of range time, and qualification on rifle after it. The "fit to win" obstacle course. Gail probably still doesn't like heights, so the cargo net will give her some trouble, but it's mounted on a solid wall. This course simulates the type of obstacles and cover/concealment actually found in an engagement.

    The Phase 2 tests are over the course materials the last three weeks--compass, rifle, uniforms, radio, the Ground Troops/Crew Defense Ensemble (chem gear) and somewhere in there are laws of war, etc. These are all subjects a soldier should know, and I still do nearly 20 years later. They're refreshed annually at least.

    "Drill Sergeant Sessions" is probably a euphemism for one last push toward perfection. They don't want recruits thinking "good enough," they want them thinking, "How much better can we make it?" It's easy to get complacent as time goes on, so they'll make a quick reminiscence to the first weekend and toss the barracks, so the recruits have to put it all together again and pay attention to details while doing so. It's also time to make up missed quals (Gail twisted an ankle and still has to do bayonet assault course, for example) and troops with difficulty will get extra study time and tutoring on required subjects.

    Gail called home Sunday in good spirits, and is frustrated that she's not as fast as a 19 year old. If that's her biggest obstacle, she's doing very well. Though I can't speak for what the Drills see or anything she's not aware of and hasn't mentioned. It's not over yet, but she's halfway there.

    Feb 24 Week 6

    Really, she should be paying to have this much fun.

    Coming up this week, second PT assessment test. In two weeks is the "final" test, but it's only 50% of max possible score to pass, not 60% as it will be in AIT and each year afterwards. Basic is only a stepping stone. She'll also have the two weeks after that to qualify if need be.

    This week, she gets to familiarize on US small arms. M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, M240 machine gun (after my time, but it's supposed to be excellent), M9 Beretta 92F pistol, M203 grenade launcher, possibly M19 belt fed grenade machine gun, M136 AT4 anti-tank rocket ($1500 shot, she BETTER hit. I've never gotten to fire one, so I'm living vicariously through her), and the Browning M2 .50 caliber machine gun (There is no God but God and John Moses Browning is his prophet. God, I LOVE the Fifty. Ever since Camp Wannamakeabigboom.)

    She's already been doing grenade qual and will have to throw two live ones. However, as her best throw of less than 10 feet (not uncommon with women. Grenades weigh about a pound and have to be held JUST SO for safety) is less than the fragmentation range of 105 feet, and less than the minimum safe engagement range for combat, she will probably not get a "Grenade" qual badge on her uniform. They will have her toss them behind a thick concrete wall and duck, which is actually much closer to the standard way of using them than trying to fast pitch them through a hole. She may do the bunker drop. It should be videod on the link.

    Some of this stuff has already been rescheduled and adjusted--the courses are constantly in flux. Her sight-in target had three 1" groups. Quite respectable. Then she scored only 25/40 on popups. I know from that score she was snapping the trigger on the doubles and distance shots, and therefore missing high right. I warned her about that, she practiced to not do that, and she owes me 5 pushups per miss when she gets back. But she did score well enough to qualify.

    She was coming off medical profile for her ankle, back to marching and hoping to run. Most people milk profile to get out of PT. She's been begging to run for three weeks. That and her age are earning her odd looks, because they're figuring out that she REALLY wants to do this.

    She's hanging in there but was feeling a bit unsure about PT, but she has four weeks and should be fine. Her run is all she needs to work on, and not much.

    She reported she was doing Confidence Course on Monday, but I think it may have been the Obstacle Course, which is more practical and less amusement parkish. That would be easier with her fear of heights, but she'll be doing both at some point.

    There will be some daytime maneuver and engagement exercises, and fitting for Class A uniforms. Frankly, since Gen McPeak revised the AF uniform, I'd much rather have the Army's back. It looks much more military. But that's a motivator for troops. Sometimes photos are done in Class A, sometimes in BDU, helmet and rifle, so I'm not sure how we'll see Gail here in a couple of weeks.

    Mar 3 Week 7

    This training has completely changed around, so I'm going from what Gail said.

    Only three weeks left, or as the troops will be putting it, "Twenty-one days and a wakeup"(as they depart on a Friday).

    This week is the final PT test that must be passed. As far as we know, Gail exceeds the minimum standards for a 35 year old female, so should be good to go. If not, she has the remainder of the time to make the test.

    She needs 9 pushups and can do at least 9, 34 situps and can do at least 40, and a 23:06 time for two miles and thinks she can manage low 22. Still, any prayers/wishes are welcomed.

    They've done some field exercises in poncho shelters, which is exactly what it sounds like--string your poncho up to a tree or bush and curl up underneath in a sleeping bag. You can get a bigger shelter by snapping together with your buddy, but it's not a comfortable way to sleep. They do have new sleeping bags, she said. However, she also detests the 19 year old who is her buddy. A buddy is supposed to complement your strengths and weaknesses. Gail is smart, mature and capable. Her buddy apparently is not. However, they've both got attitude, so it's a hate/hate relationship.

    She tackled the confidence course and managed okay--handling the "skyscraper" despite her fear, but she lacked the strength for the weaver. It's a "participate" event, not a pass/fail, so no problem with that. Most people thought of it as an amusement park. She was terrified.

    Since Monday she's done the nighttime live fire infiltration, "White Sticks" (in reference to the tracer streaks overhead) a 500 meter crawl on your back, under obstacles, with live machine gun fire 6'-8' overhead. You CAN die if you panic and stand up. The guns are fixed so they can't depress low enough to hit the ground, the ammo is specially tested to ensure it doesn't fall short (it has its own cartridge designation for that purpose), and the impact area is waaay past the area in use. I've been in the pits at a rifle match, working targets. There is nothing quite like the snapping eggshell breaking crack of a supersonic bullet just overhead. I'm also happy to leave it at a range and not actual bullets from a hostile shooter--or a "Friendly" shooter. I almost took a 105mm howitzer round once when someone screwed up.

    There will be more road marches, and Gail's complaining about the weight of the ruck, body armor, weapon, etc. Welcome to my world. The gear I usually wear 18 hours a day in the Sandbox or during an exercise is 67 lbs without ammo, water or food. If you distribute it right, you can still run at a decent clip. I think hers is a bit lighter, Infantry carry up to 200 lbs at times, and it never feels lighter as you get used to it.

    Her Class A uniform should be tailored. The Army hardly wears theirs in Basic, except to graduate, so they look sloppy (hey, it's true). AF, we wore ours for most of two weeks, with daily inspections. But I trust Gail will look very neat.

    This is the last week of actual instruction. After this it's all participatory events to practice what has been learned. Barring a disaster, she's done it. But the next 14 days are going to really be tiring, though hopefully invigorating and confidence building. The last week will be just outprocessing, catching up on missed events if need be, and preparing to ship to AIT.

    Mar 10 Week 8

    We're coming down to the wire.

    She did something last week that cost her a bunch of extra duty and 120 pushups (Though I think the pushups were group). So at least her arms are getting the exercise they need.

    Problems Gail is facing:

    PT. Marginal. Likely in large part to the injuries she sustained. She has two chances to pass the "final" PT test. Her pushups are right at 9, her situps were low last time because her feet were too wide, though they should have allowed her to make a correction, as it wasn't mentioned until she'd done 32. Her run was 30 seconds slow. That's the only one to worry about, but with some more recovery from her ankle, motivation and possibly someone to pace her, she should be fine.

    After 8 weeks at AIT (Ft Meade) she will have pass another PT test to regular Army standards, so she'll be running her butt off at least three times a week and more if they let her--she was running every day here.

    Some Drill has decided she doesn't eat "enough" and is ordering her to take bigger portions. She's not 19 years old, is 15 lbs overweight(we think. They have no scale and haven't weighed her. This is boggling to me), and doesn't need the calorie intake a growing teenager does. I advised her on how to diplomatically deal with that--Drills actually DO NOT have any authority to adjust a diet. Only the medics do.

    Grenade throw: she's up to 20 some feet and must do 45 before they allow her to throw the mandatory two live ones instead of dummies with smoke charges.

    However, she says they are telling her to throw it like a baseball, which is flat out wrong, and that a high arc is dangerous, which is also wrong--that's the only approved way to throw, as per the manual on my desk, revision Aug 2003. I have no idea what they're thinking.

    They're telling her, "Do more pushups." It's a mantra of theirs. Unfortunately, those are the wrong muscles for an overhand throw of any kind. I advised her on the proper throw, and how to get more strength behind it, and to see either Guard Liaison or IG if need be. I wish I had better info, but what I'm getting is a few minutes a week from a recruit who has limited info at her end. I can't interfere based on that. She'll have to handle it, and write it up afterwards if need be.

    Most females lack the strength to throw a bulky pound of metal 45 feet, so I can't imagine their threat to "restart her" is real. On the other hand, my fears about the chronic stupidity at Ft Jackson are being confirmed by other sources. We'll have to see. Every day along means her chances are better, and she's really only got the two requirements left.

    This week, "Final" PT test with a makeup next week if needed. I should know by mail early next week if she did it, as she can't make a call this weekend, because:

    Starting Saturday, a 3 day field exercise--Victory Forge. 10 km march out, exercise, 15 km march in. I imagine they'll be using poncho shelters again. The weather will run from mid 30s to 60s, and fairly dry, but there will be dew. The final two foot marches should hopefully strengthen her ankle, if she needs to make a second run. They'll conduct a night time infiltration by squads with lots of blanks and mud.

    After returning from the field, they'll have a final inspection if they haven't already, in ranks, by the commander. Then they'll turn in weapons and gear, as they've met all qualifications with it. If Gail still needs to throw grenades she'll keep body armor, helmet and web gear for the time being.

    There is a Drill and Ceremony competition where they'll show off their normal and special marching moves for brownie points. This is a good test of an instructor, and I'll be grading them on that when the platoon does another demo for graduation. If the instructor is good, they will look sharp and practiced. If not, they'll look like idiots. But the fault comes down to whomever drilled them, or didn't. I will be watching that closely.

    Even if she barely squeaks by, she still qualifies. We knew this would be tough at her age. All the moral support you can throw at the problem will help.

    Seven days of actual training to go, then a week of outprocessing and graduation.

    Hopefully, within the week, I can announce that she is a GO to graduate.

    Mar17 Week 9 -- GRADUATION!

    There really isn't much to say here. Victory Forge Field Training Exercise was 7 days, not 3--it's been lengthened. Shelter halves and lots of running through the woods like soldiers, 15 km march back, clean and turn in gear, get ready for graduation and catch up...

    ...and Gail may have to catch up on PT. She has accomplished each task at least once--pushups, situps and run, but as of 2 March had not done them all at once, which is required. She had a test 3 March, I don't have any word yet, and she has another this weekend if needed. If she's close, they'll let her do it yet again.

    Her run has 90 seconds to spare. No problem. Her situps are fine if her feet are held tightly enough. No problem. Her pushups went from 9 to 1 with a different rater. She may have had bad form or the rater may have been mistaken. It does happen. I'm confident she'd make it in the two succeeding attempts, but I don't have a concrete confirmation yet.Then, her grenade throw was still lacking. She's getting more practice, and we'll just have to see. The Sergeant Major at Reserve Affairs says she's never heard of anyone failing it, and Gail isn't going to be the first, I'm sure. But it could take a few attempts. So she's accomplished almost everything but still has some items that must be checked.

    Her last letter was somewhat frustrated, but very determined. Now is the time to pray, throw horseshoes, burn sage or whatever you do to invoke good luck.

    I hope to POSITIVELY confirm success this weekend. Hey, that leaves 3 days to spare. No problem.;-)

    Okay, Gail finally DID manage to throw grenades far enough.

    She also did the bayonet assault course she missed way back when she damaged her ankle.

    She woke up Thurs and did the Company Run, 2 miles.

    She ran the bayonet course once for familiarization, once for score.

    This was with another platoon. Said platoon got in trouble and got dropped for pushups and rifle drills, and thoroughly smoked.

    Being the loyal masochist, Gail went ahead and PTed with them, even though she didn't have to.

    So that afternoon was her makeup PT test... after running 5 miles and some serious exercise, she made 52 situps (34 required), 22:48 for two miles (23:06 required) and 6 pushups (9 required).


    So she's repeating the test one last time tomorrow, and won't be offering to do extra PT first.

    This is her last chance before graduation this week. If she fails, she'll repeat the last two weeks again. Not a disaster, but something we'd all rather avoid.

    So now's the time. Pray. Wish. Throw horseshoes over your shoulder. Burn incense. Kill the sacrificial chickens. Whatever it is, please do it today.

    We'd rather not celebrate her 36th birthday next week at Basic.

    Thanks, y'all.

    Gail in 2002

    Gail at Graduation from Basic

    Ah! DINFOS has restored my faith.

    Gail called today, and has limited email access (When the classroom is unlocked and not being used for class).

    They are preparing for an inspection there.

    They are dusting above doorframes.

    They are dusting behind lockers.

    They are polishing floors.

    They are scrubbing latrines, showers and storage rooms.

    They are trimming threads on uniforms and inspecting Class As. The US insignia her Basic Drill put on crooked (see the pic...I thought those looked out of alignment with the collar line) were corrected by her AIT Drill with no penalty. She has attached her regimental crests and medal.

    They are being dropped mercilessly if it's not done right.

    Gail's fine with that.

    Her Drill has mentioned that the First Sergeant is impressed with her attitude, and they will coach her on her pushup form, and that she is NOT to run until her knees are checked out (she has some pain, apparently) and will pass the test in four weeks if they have anything to do with it.

    As long as it's done right, during the allotted time, they are free to relax the rest of the time. That's called "motivation."

    THAT is what a military training unit should be like.

    September 28, 2005

    How to tell if you may be a Basic Still Photography Student:

    You may be a Basic Still Photography Student if you've ever taken a picture of someone taking a picture of someone taking a picture.

    ("Take photos of people working. No MPs, no one wearing a badge, no one at a security point, no one with NSA, nothing inside a classroom that might be sensitive or restricted." Recruits can't drive vehicles and can't leave central garrison. She said they had 8 people in a circle shooting pics of each other "working.")

    If you've ever written a caption for a ROCK...

    If you've taken an entire roll of film of closeups of a motorcycle for pictures of shapes...

    If you've ever approached someone with a waiver for taking photos only to have THEM pull out an identical waiver as you approach...

    If you've ever been photographed talking to your husband on a payphone...

    If you've gotten out of formation to take photos of someone dropping out of formation for pushups...

    If you've ever let a Drill Sergeant smoke you three times so your classmates can get some good closeups of the sweat on your faces...

    If your dress for the evening is a $10 T-shirt, a $40 pair of jeans, a $20 pair of sandals, a DINFOS badge, a Student Detachment badge and a $15,000 camera bag...

    If you look forward to field exercise where you ONLY have to carry canteens, body armor, helmet, web gear and a weapon...

    If you like PT in winter because the frost is a nice neutral gray...

    If you hate PT in winter not because it's colder than hell, but because the neutral gray frost is too close to the neutral gray PT uniform...

    If you're tired of 46Qs doing ONE WEEK of photography in their journalism class and claiming, "Oh, we shoot photos, too."

    If you know the meaning of the phrase "Sniper Down!" and ignore it.

    If you know every enlisted rank for every branch of the US military and can identify every instructor at DINFOS by name given their rank, gender, field and branch of service. But you still don't know what those funny Navy and Coastie shoulder boards mean...

    If you refer to 25M Illustrators as "Combat Crayons"...

    If you've ever shot off 6 rolls of film in twenty minutes without leaving the classroom...

    If you can lurk in downtown DC and shoot photos of 200 people while you and your $15,000 camera rig remain totally invisible...

    If you've developed a fascination for the aesthetic qualities of petals, blades of grass, bark and rusted fenders on cars...

    December 14, 2005

    While they issue amended orders for her extra week, pursuant to travel orders to come home. Now, THIS aspect of the military I'm VERY familiar with. I don't think I've EVER had correct orders the first time. I've arrived early, late, on alternate transportation, delayed en route, been given emergency orders to travel on a Sunday morning that were issued on Tuesday...

    So I'm tempted to call DINFOS tomorrow and confuse someone to death.

    "Right. She can't leave, because she needs orders. You haven't written those orders yet."

    Reply: "Correct."

    "BUT! Since she currently doesn't HAVE orders to be there, ipso facto you can't keep her, right?"

    Reply: "Well, she's already here."

    "At the moment. But it only stands to reason that if she can't leave without travel orders, she can't BE THERE without assignment orders. She could be here and that would avoid that problem."

    Reply: "But she doesn't have orders for that yet, and can't until she has orders to be here."

    "Which, as you observe, she does not have."

    Reply: "Yes, sir, but nothing can proceed without orders."

    "Including the class she was in from July until November before backdated orders arrived?"

    Reply: "Errrrr...."

    "So backdated orders are, in fact, as possible there as anywhere else in the US military, yes?"

    Reply: "Um....I'm not sure I'm allowed to discuss that."

    "I mean, when someone winds up down at Walter Reed with serious issues, you don't have them transported BACK until you fill out orders for convalescent leave, do you?"

    Reply: "Well, not in that case, no..."

    "And when her second class started without orders, she started anyway, and got paid per regulation, with amended and backdated orders FOUR MONTHS later. But you said without orders you can't do anything. And yet, without orders to be under your control, how can you give her any orders to stay there?"

    Hears gun shot and body hitting floor over phone

    Alphastk: You're entirely too intelligent to be left with nothing to do.

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